Hijab and Sports

Asmahan Mansour and her teammates
In late February 2007, 11-year-old Asmahan Mansour was ordered to remove her hijab or leave the field during a soccer tournament in the Canadian province of Quebec. The referee, who is also Muslim, said that her hijab would endanger her safety. After she was ejected from the game, her team walked off in protest. Four other teams forfeited their games and left the field in support of Ms. Mansour.

As a result of this incident, there has been much discussion surrounding hijab and sports. Is it possible to adhere to the proper Islamic dress code and at the same time be physically active? Is it a challenge to do so and what are some ways to overcome this challenge? Islamonline.net recently asked some Muslim reverts these very questions, and their responses were as follows.

Huda Khattab

I am a hijab-wearing mom who, after having three children, feels the need to get active and fit. I am also not getting any younger, and with health issues on both parents' sides, I understand the importance of being active for good health.

Hijab is not a barrier to being active: Anyone can don a pair of sturdy shoes and take a walk; that's a good start for anyone who wants to get fit.

My daughters and I go swimming every week. We are blessed to live in a city with a large Muslim community, and some sisters have taken the initiative to organize swimming sessions for Muslim women. The pool is booked for a "private group," and they put screens on the windows so no one can see in from the outside. The guidelines also include asking women to dress modestly, so there are no bikinis, just leggings and T-shirts and the occasional "burkini" type outfit imported from the Middle East.

I have also recently joined a women-only gym that opened near my home. This provides exercise equipment for cardio and strength training, and they also offer classes for aerobics, yoga, Pilates, etc.

My choice is to keep my hijab on when exercising. I wear baggy track pants, a long top, and a headscarf. Some of the sports shops sell "tall tees" or long T-shirts that come to mid-thigh or even to the knees. stores that sell baggy clothes to the hip-hop crowd are another source for long, loose T-shirts that are good for working out in.

When a child has a passion for a sport, it can transcend barriers and bring people together.
My daughters play soccer. We are fortunate to have a local Muslim soccer league which provides sporting opportunities for the children and a social life for the parents! Games are played on the field belonging to a local Muslim school. Prior to the community acquiring this school, the league rented a field from the city. The kit for older girls has long pants and the majority of girls wear a long-sleeve T-shirt under the short-sleeved shirt, and most of them wear the headscarf too; tucked into the shirt, it does not flap around and it causes no distraction or danger. Before the Muslim soccer league came along, my older daughter played in a local league for a while. They had no problem with her wearing a headscarf tucked into the shirt and wearing long track pants in the team color instead of the shorts provided. We explained to the coach that this had to do with our religious beliefs and he was very respectful.

My daughters also enjoy horseback riding. They wear long-sleeved T-shirts in summer and long sweaters in the winter. My older daughter has competed in schooling shows and won ribbons — she even placed second overall last year. She wore the typical "show clothes" but with the britches looser and the jacket longer than usual. Riding helmets fit over headscarves quite easily so that is not a problem at all. None of the instructors or judges has had a problem with this; other parents and riders have also been quite welcoming. When a child has a passion for a sport, it can transcend barriers and bring people together.

My children are far more adventurous than I am. I tend to shy away from anything that involves the possibility of falling over or falling off. But we are all committed to getting fitter and we are all committed to our hijab and our faith.

Heather Greenwood

A friend and I organized a sisters' swimming group years ago. We arranged the times at the pool, and I made big black curtains to cover the windows. We then divided the swimmers into groups so that they take lessons with qualified instructors according to their level. The staff at the pool commented on how well our group was organized. That made us all happy. We were ready for them with printed group lists, etc. We felt that they respected us. One lifeguard told me that they looked forward to our group coming in.

Tammy Soumas

I personally find the hijab cumbersome and uncomfortable to wear while exercising; however, it is a personal choice and right. I hate having to see all these thongs hanging out the back of someone pants but I don't think anyone has tried to force others to wear full-rise pants or full-length tops! It is ridiculous and arrogant, and if we don't put a stop to it, it's only the beginning.

Lori A.

Modesty and sports can go together.
Before becoming Muslim, I was into sports very much — cross-country running, gymnastics, track and field, plus cheerleading if that counts. To this day, I continue to participate for fun and health in charitable runs/walks, football games, baseball games, and volleyball WHILE wearing my scarf. I have not felt my scarf hinders my performance in any way — it's a scarf not a body wrap. 
Hijab does not in any way pose a safety problem no more than long hair does. The small two-piece hijab that most girls wear can be pinned tightly around the neck and tucked into the shirt. The only problem I foresee that may happen is it may get tugged off should someone grab it, again no more so than if someone pulls at your shirt. This type of hijab is such a small bit of fabric that it would in no way hurt someone. How it poses a danger is not explained well. If it comes off during a game, the girl may feel shy BUT again no big deal, just put the thing back on. Allah knows it was not the Muslim girl's intention for it to come off.
The situation in Canada has brought to focus that Muslim females DO want to play competitive sports. Modesty and sports can go together. In sha' Allah we Muslims can discuss this with those in charge and succeed in proving a headscarf is not a danger to any player. I am excited to know many paths are being made for us Muslims to participate successfully in most avenues of life without being made to abandon our religion.




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