In May of this year, FIBA came out with a ruling that women who wore head coverings for religious reasons would be allowed to compete professionally and internationally in basketball. While women in hijab have been competing in track and field, soccer, judo, tae kwon do, and countless other sports, basketball remained a no-hijabi’s land.
Add to this the uptick in religiously observant Muslim women participating in sports at all levels and what you have is a mini-revolution happening right under our noses. Let’s face it. For many years, sports has been the domain of Muslim men only. They made excuses at first, citing our delicate nature and the rough and competitive arena of sports to discourage us. They told us that we couldn’t compromise our modesty. And, in some cases, they just flatly denied us our rights, citing tradition as the reason.
I mean, who wants to marry a woman who runs a 7-minute mile? And abs are so unattractive on a woman. And if you start working out and feeling good who will be home to make my dinner and silently obey me? I’ve even heard people say that since a woman will never be as strong/fast as a man there’s no point in her training seriously. Just a little gentle exercise to keep her figure is good enough.
With all of that stacked against her, every effort to break down those barriers ensures that the next one will fall. One of the first was the issue of appropriate clothing for modest sportswomen. For a long time we made do. We put on layers. We sewed. It was hot and ugly but we grit our teeth and got on with business. Now there are modest fashion brands that cater to modest women. The shirts are not only cute but long and moisture wicking. The pants are, well, pants instead of glorified tights. And the hijabs…well they have come a long way as well.
It may shock some people to know that sports-hijabs have been on the market for nearly twenty years. Nike may have only recently found out, but Muslims in the know have been aware that hijabs and athletics are not polar opposites and have been catering to that segment of the market for many years. ONly recently, with the renewed visibility of Muslim women in the west, have mainstream brands picked up on the desire of many women to work out in clothes that leave a little to the imagination.
AS a woman, and as a parent, I support any efforts that get women moving. Heart disease and diabetes are rampant among the women in my community because we don’t have an exercise culture for women. The aunties have only recently discovered Zumba, and unfortunately, the younger women know all about how to starve themselves to loose a few pounds, but next to nothing about building strong, healthy bodies. Sports-hijabs and modest activewear matter because they save lives.
They allow you to take your faith with you onto the court, field, or track. For too long Muslim athletes had to “blend” in order to pursue their sports. They had to start down a slippery slope of compartmentalizing their faith and their passions that often lead to deep spiritual crisis later on. The sports hijab will help normalize Muslim women. Soon it won’t be shocking to see an Olympian in hijab. Soon there won’t be only one. And by that time, we would all have given up the idea that “good Muslim girls don’t do that”.