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Religion can be a touchy subject, which is why most hairstylists, customer service reps and other people with jobs that interact with the public are often told to stay away from it. So it’s not totally surprising that almost as soon as Nike announced it was developing a sports hijab for women — to be released in 2018 — people started freaking out online.

The hijab, a head scarf worn by some Muslim women, has frequently sparked controversy. But Nike isn’t the first brand to develop and sell an athletic version of the hijab; it just happens to be the biggest company to do so to date. And while many were applauding the move as a great way to raise awareness of Muslim women in sport, others took offence and felt the product helps to oppress women.

The major issue here? Wearing a hijab is a choice. And if a woman is choosing to wear it for herself —  whether it’s in keeping with her faith or visually choosing to proudly express her Muslim identity — then what exactly is the problem?

Luckily for people who believe in religious freedom, there are some staunch supporters out there too. That includes figure skater Zahra Lari and weight lifter Amna Al Haddad; both women helped to design and test the product. Upon hearing all of the negative reactions, Haddad even took to social media to defend the company.

With the Nike Pro Hijab Launch, I do realize there is a lot of mixed reactions as to why Nike decided to create such a product “now.” __ From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in Hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not “popular” and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise and compete in hijab. __ It is a recent phenomenon where more women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field. We made it big in the news, we couldn’t be ignored. __ As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it – personally since 2011 – the big guys can’t help but notice us “the underdogs” and our impact in the sports industry and world. They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another “competitive” sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now. __ As an innovative company, they will create products and they will meet market needs – whatever they may be. It is not dismissing any other hard work done in the past to develop sports hijabs, it’s just there is more competition in the market for modest clothing now. __ I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t “just do it.” __ Ps. This is purely my opinion on the matter, not paid for or asked to be written. Much Love, -Amna

A post shared by آمنة الحداد Amna Al Haddad 🇦🇪 (@amna.s.alhaddad) on

“I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice,” Haddad wrote, while also noting that this is her opinion and no one paid her for it. “And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t ‘just do it.'”

At the end of the day, we’re just glad that a major sports company is encouraging women of all religions to participate in sport.

 

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