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Montreal: Sports hijab helps girls make the team

December 21, 2009

Local designer develops a sports hijab to keep Muslim girls and women on the playing field

In 2009, a controversy erupted at amateur sporting events in Canadian cities over the wearing of the hijab by young female athletes. Newspaper reports told stories of soccer teams forfeiting the right to play because of the coach’s refusal to withdraw hijab-wearing team members. In another instance, young champions of tae kwan do were also disallowed to participate in a martial arts tournament.

Although the sports officials referred to safety concerns, others described the actions as racist and intolerant of the religious and cultural differences of immigrants in a secular and multicultural society.

In Montreal, a 26 year-old industrial designer named Elham Seyed Javad decided to focus on the needs of competitive young athletes rather than issues of religious accommodation.

According to Seyed Javad who is Muslim and does not wear a hijab, “Your beliefs shouldn’t prevent you from playing sports.”

Seyed Javad designed the sports hijab to eliminate the issue of a free flowing hijab which could get pulled and cause injuries. It fits tightly around the head and is attached to the wearer’s sports shirt. She points out that her “Resport” design is “more than a hijab”; it can be used by any athlete who needs to keep their hair protected during sport activities. Her choice of name, “Resport” is a wordplay combining ‘sport’ and ‘respect.’

A number of schools in Montreal have endorsed the use of a safe hijab in sport because it helps ensure that all kids are involved in this important part of a typical Canadian education.

In the face of the 2009 debate in Quebec on reasonable accommodation, Salam Elmenyawi, president of the Muslim Council of Montreal, finds such sporting and practical reactions encouraging. “I think its a normalization of wearing the hijab by having the institutions offer it,” he comments.

It lets girls be girls.

Source: “Sports hijab aims to be game-changer,” by Andrew Chung. The Toronto Star, November 12, 2009.

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