As of late, Nike has thrown itself into the fashion radar with hijab athletic wear; the powerful promotional pictures of hijabi athletes in action, wearing the new Nike product of course, now grace every social media website out there. Although far from the first company to come out with a sport hijab, Nike is arguably the most publicized brand to do so, bringing the article of clothing into the limelight. The product has garnered lots of attention, both positive and negative, but it has made quite the impact regardless, as the item itself is packed with social implications.
The existence of the sports hijab is, in many ways, a radical thing because it seeks to support Muslim women — and Muslim women alone. Without accessibility to good quality sports hijabs, athletic hijabis came up with their own solutions. They would opt for hoodies or normal scarves, but these materials weren’t breathable or good at accommodating sweat. The impracticality of homemade solutions made it more difficult for hijabis to participate in athletics (though that didn’t stop many great athletes). This particular group of women had an extra obstacle to face. The lack of good quality sports hijabs reflected society’s lack of acknowledgement that plenty of athletically talented or aspiring women wear hijabs. In fact, it reflects society’s ability to recognize hijabis at all. Just the fact that it has taken this long for a high profile brand like Nike to come out with this product shows that society doesn’t prioritize hijabis.
On that note, many sports banned “headgear” during play, severely restricting hijabis from participating. FIBA (International Basketball Federation), for example, has banned all religious headgear for safety reasons, citing that a fallen piece of headgear could cause players to slip or become entangled. And banning headgear generally means banning those who wear them. Hijabis should not have to remove their headgear in order to play sports. However, with more widespread availability of safe hijabs meant specifically for athletic use, more hijabis will be able to participate in sports.
This makes it clear that introducing religious headgear meant for sports empowers those who wear headgear—and not just in sports. There is undeniable prejudice against Muslims in the Western world. Nike’s new line of sports hijabs, while far from the first and far from perfect, seems promising in its goal towards inclusion in sports. Hopefully, the addition will help hijabis thrive in their athletic pursuits and inspire more inclusivity of religions.