hould Muslim women in Hijab be allowed to take part in International sports? Some Islamic countries aren’t allowing women to take part in sports that are incompatible with Islamic dress code.
In 2016 American Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman athlete, made history by becoming the first Muslim-American to stand on a podium at the Rio Olympics, winning a bronze. Her win was big reason why Nike recently announced plans to debut a “Pro Hijab” for Muslim women who compete. In February 2019, London’s Brunei University, in a bid to encourage more Muslim women to take part in sports announced the launch of their very own sports hijab. Despite there being so much noise in the media about Muslim women in sport, statistics show that they still have a relatively long way to go.
Does wearing the hijab restrict Muslim women and girls from taking part in sports? The answer would have been yes ten years ago, but no longer. The recent emergence of Muslim women taking the sporting world by storm has meant that seeing the hijab in a stadium, or even the ring, is quickly becoming the norm.
The US weightlifting federation dress code is also designed in a way that makes it difficult for Muslim women to observe the hijab and compete. It states that athletes cannot wear long sleeves or long bottoms. However, Pakistani weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah was told she could not compete at the national level unless she wore a weightlifting singlet.
A girl from Minnesota, Amaiya Zafar 18, was disqualified for defying ‘safety rules’ at the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championship. “I was told I couldn’t compete in my hijab, even though it gave me no competitive advantages” explains Zafar
The Sporting Equals Organization states that only 26.1 percent of Asian women take part in the recommended levels of sport and physical activity (once a week) compared to 31.4 percent of white British women. Shockingly, another study by Sports England found that only 18 percent of Muslim women participate in regular sport, compared to 30 percent of the entire UK’s female population.
Many sports still don’t cater to the specific needs of Muslim women and their dress code. For instance, the basketball governing body, FIBA, prohibits players from wearing the hijab for health and safety reasons. The US weightlifting federation dress code is also designed in a way that makes it difficult for Muslim women to observe the hijab and compete. It states that athletes cannot wear long sleeves or long bottoms.
It’s time the rules are changed to cater to needs of Muslim athletes in hijab.
Zakaria Virk, Editor