Elham Seyed Javad: Sports Hijab Takes Off

November 28th, 2013

Javad 200 x 130In 2009, Montreal-based, Iranian-born industrial designer Elham Seyed Javad had an idea. A controversy disupted amateur sporting events in Canadian cities over the wearing of the hijab by young female athletes. Her response was to design a sports hijab that handled “so-called” safety concerns which was accepted by FIFA in 2012. Cities of Migration checks in with the Iranian-born designer to find out about the impact of her work.

Were you surprised when FIFA accepted you design for the sports hijab?

I was very happy when FIFA accepted the ResportOn Pro Release we presented to them last year. Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan and his team worked very hard to get the ban on headscarf lifted. They got FIFA’s Health Committee to test different designs for safety. We were, in a way, confident that if a safe solution was brought to them, it would be accepted. They proceeded to a strict testing of our sports headscarf and the Pro Release was then officially accepted!

What was the initial response from local sports clubs? Are there more young Muslim women playing amateur sport?

The response from local sports club was very positive and many athletes are purchasing ResportOn for their favourite sports. Many also tell us they have been looking for a solution like this for many years, and that they now feel more confident to practice sports.

In the past, some soccer clubs used FIFA’s lack of rules on the hijab to keep young female athletes off the field. What was their reaction to FIFA’s acceptance of the sports hijab?

I have to say, that since the beginning it has been a very positive journey. Reaction from most of people has always been one of unity and mutual respect.

Since FIFA accepted your design, are more players wearing the sports hijab? Has the response been different according to country?

I think the number of Muslim women athletes is going to grow every year, and many countries are responding positively to it. More specifically, a lot associations around the world are working to empower women through sports, and we can witness a great deal of achievements from them.

Have other sports federations reacted?

We were recently approached by the Canadian Hand-Ball Federation. What is also very exciting is that not only are sports federation interested, but also organizations from fields that have nothing to do with sports, like laboratories or professional kitchens.

As someone who is Montreal-based, what’s your response to the Quebec Charter of Values? If legislated, what impact would it have on soccer, and other sports, in Quebec?

Since the beginning of this project, we wanted to find a safe and comfortable solution to empower Muslim women athletes, and we wish to continue to do so. I do not think it is possible to compare a design project to a legal and political project. We work in totally different fields.

What can sport teach us about living in a multicultural society?

Sports teach us that you should never judge a person based on appearance because it doesn’t matter what your beliefs or cultural backgrounds are. What counts on the field is the game you are playing. We are all the same and we can all express our passion for sport through our personal background in mutual respect.

What’s your favourite FIFA team?

Iran of course 😉


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