Why Muslim sports women wear hijab while practicing sports? Recently The French Senate voted in favor of a bill to ban headscarves in sports competitions. The advocates of the legislation claim that hijab is symbolize Islamic radicalism, patriarchy as well a lack of women’s empowerment. Muslim women athletes and women’s rights activists have condemned the proposed law, with one commentator saying it “gendered Islamophobia. ” Others have pointed out how such laws have the potential to limit Muslim women’s inclusion in sports. As researchers who study diversity inclusion in sports, we conducted several studies. That was focusing on sports participation among Muslim women over a period of three years. Our recent study, published in 2021. Shows many Muslim sports women wear hijab while participating in sports, and they pointed many reasons for doing so.
The participation of Muslim women’s in sports is historically low as compared to other marginalized groups, such as Indigenous groups and other racial minorities. This is especially evident in socially conservative countries such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, where only a few women have ever participated in the Summer Olympics.
As compared to the previous years, in recent years more Muslim women’s have started to participate in sports, especially in Western countries. It increases the sale of modest Islamic fashion wear and headscarves/hijabs as fashion accessories.
Now the sale of modest Islamic fashion wear is booming. In the year 2018, the global Muslim fashion wear market was estimated to be 283 billion US Dollars, in the biggest marketplace for this sale in countries like Turkey, United Arab Emirates, and Indonesia. This market is expected to grow to 402 billion US Dollars by 2024.
Many famous sports brands like hijab sportswear have introduced headscarves or hijabs for sports to enter this market.
In our study, we asked Muslim sports women wear hijab already by hijab sportswear. why did they want to wear the hijab during sports? Among the reasons they pointed out is that the hijab allows them to adhere to their religious beliefs, and makes them feel empowered and comfortable. One of the participants stated: “The idea of a hijab is tied with the concept of freedom and human rights. To me, a hijab is a personal belief and ideology. Everyone has the right to follow it or not.”
The influence of other people in their lives was also a big factor. For instance, some participants reported that “men or women” in their families could influence their choice of wearing a hijab.
We also collect information or views of other Muslim women who were often influential in their decisions. For example, women were enthusiastic about purchasing hijab sportswear when their friends had also done so.
However, some Muslim women show the fear of being harassed in Western countries when they wore a hijab in sports. For example, one participant reported: “Sometimes other community members do not accept a pro-hijab and treat the woman with a hijab differently. That can bring some bad feelings to that woman, like fear of being judged and mistreated in society.”
Other scholars have previously found that for Muslim women wearing a hijab while sporting activities can be empowering. Researchers have also argued that Muslim women consider the headscarves/hijab to be part of their unique identity in various Western contexts. It should be noted that not all Muslim women wear the hijab.