Muslim women embrace sports in the UK

SHAFAQNA - With only 17 percent of British Muslim women playing sport, Muslim Athletes believe that sporty hijab could make a difference and boost the number of Muslim women’s participation in sports in the country. 

“It’s also about educating people about the benefits and creating opportunities,” British Martial Arts Champion Ruqsana Begum said on Monday. 

Begum thinks that religion and culture are not obstacles in the face of Muslim women eager to play sports. 
The belief that a sports hijab could make a difference was also shared by Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation Chair Rimla Akhtar. “Clothing for sports is an important part of improving the experience,” she said. 

“I wear a sports hijab and it is definitely more comfortable.” 

In a bid to make exercise a more comfortable experience for women, Begum designed a sports headscarf for herself. “They’re made of Lycra, they’re stretchy and don’t need pins,” she said. “A woman or girl would just pull it over her head and be ready to play sport. They’re also moisture-resistant.” 

She was inspired by veiled Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, who made history for Muslim women athletes after winning a 200m gold medal at the 2006 West Asian games. 

“Nike designed her a one-off piece and I thought more availability of sporty hijabs would get more young people interested in sport,” said Begum. 

Hijab has never posed a problem for veiled Muslim athletes. Physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition. 

Last year, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) revoked the imposed hijab ban during matches. 
Offering a new hope for scores of veiled Muslim players, the world’s basketball body amended last September its rules to allow Islamic headscarf or hijab during official competitions on a trial basis, a decision welcomed by Muslim athletes.

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