Friday, July 01 2016

Increasing Muslim women’s sports participation

The Guardian’s blog on the Olympic Games carries an article by feature writer, Homa Khalili on the way in which the relaxation of clothing rules in sports as well as changes in the design of sportswear, including hijabs made for sports, is increasing Muslim women’s access to sport.

From the Guardian:

“Amid the furore over the state of undress of one of the UK's most successful female cyclists, the increasing aceptance [sic] of sportswear that allows Muslim women to compete has garnered little attention."

Homa notes the decision by FIFA earlier this month to overturn a ban on headscarves after a campaing was led by Prince Ali Bin al Hussein of Jordan. It came to late for some, as Homa highlights that the womens Iranian football team had already been prevented “from playing in their 2012 Olympic qualifying match last year”.

Homa continues, “Fifa is just one of several international bodies to relax clothing rules and so allow more Muslim women to compete in the Games.” She adds that “It's impossible to know how many women will be competing with their head covered this year, but they include judo player Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim and Saudi Arabian runner Sarah Attar, as well as footballers."

She notes that regulations on clothing in sports has been a barrier for some women wanting to compete professionally, but that when regulations are relaxed or adjusted, it opens up opportunities for Muslim women to participate in sports. Rimla Akhtar from the Muslim Women in Sport Foundation tells her that "A way has been found of combining women's passion for sport with their passion for their faith and the sports hijab will certainly aid women's participation in sport at all levels."

Dr Emma Tarlo, an Anthropologist at Goldsmiths University of London tells Homa about her research which illustrates that “women have been put off sport because of clothing – that's part of the problem with swimming for instance. Others have been excluded from sport because of what they wear."

"Sports clothing has lagged behind school uniforms and street style in terms of diversity."
Tarlo highlights in particular the way that designs for sports hijabs which placate fears for health and safety have been important to overturning bans on hijabs, as was the case with FIFA. She adds that the designs allow women to blend in, in a way that traditional scarves would not allow, “Because the new styles look sporty, the wearer is not highlighted as different in the same way."

Most significantly, Tarlo speaks about the way that the opening up of sports to Muslim women can allow these women to be role models for others, “If you see sports people who share your values it can be a positive message. Especially as the Olympics is in east London, because this is a multicultural area with many Muslims, to have sportswomen the girls can relate to as role models is a positive thing."

With such attention on the Muslim community in the Olympics this year due to its coinciding with Ramadhan, this article is refreshing and a world away from the scapegoating coverage Muslims received in the Daily Mail recently on Muslim worshippers ‘squeezing’ onto non-Games lanes.  The article highlights how when positive steps are taken to open access to sports, women are empowered to participate. Moreover, increasing the representation of Muslim women in sport is no doubt an important step in challenging negative stereotypes of Muslim women as oppressed and powerless. On the contrary, what is showcased here is that like any sportspersons, when given the opportunity Muslim women will show the resilience and determination that is required.


0 #1 RE: Increasing Muslim women’s sports participationadam taylor 2012-07-26 12:25
nice article, shame about the number of typo's

"it came to late for some..."
"...scapegoating coverage Muslims"
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