By Duha Ali
“There’s a change happening in the world,” Al-Haddad says. “You can see it when a big brand like Nike creates a sports hijab.” Amna Al Haddad, a 27-year-old weightlifter from the UAE, inspired the $27 billion sportswear giant to create a breathable and lightweight sports hijab.
Many have divided opinions about the US-based company manufacturing a performance hijab and Nike has faced much criticism regarding this matter. When they first announced the news of launching a hijab for female Muslim athletes, people have come up with the idea that Nike is supporting the oppression of women.
Muslim women come from a region that discourages them from doing sports and becoming athletes and requires them to adhere to the religious modest dress code. It is not easy walking around with a head scarf all day. Especially in the summer time. So how do you think that people who run, workout, lift weights and swim with a headscarf will feel? They need to be noticed and heard. They need something to make their performance better while doing what they love.
Al Haddad defended the sports brand’s hijab launch, addressing it as getting “mixed reactions” after Nike came under siege on social media. Critics on Twitter also joined in and shared multiple opinions surrounding the topic.
Amna, who is sponsored by Nike, told FEMAIL: “I felt that people were confused by the launch and I was inspired to raise awareness that with such a product Nike isn’t dismissing anyone else’s previous work, or oppressing women, that it is simply including Muslim female athletes who require such a product. It’s an expansion and a beautiful one that Nike is becoming a well-rounded brand that caters to everyone and all sports.”
The inspiration came from Sarah Attar, an Olympic runner from Saudi Arabia who participated while wearing a hijab. Nike also worked alongside Amna Al Haddad who nearly made it to the Rio Olympics, but a back injury got in the way of her dream. “We worked with Amna and a variety of other athletes to see what they needed and wanted in a performance hijab,” a spokesman told Al Arabiya English. “What we heard was that women were looking for a lightweight and breathable solution that would stay in place without concern of shifting.”
It is insane that many people on social media are taking this the wrong way by saying Nike is enforcing women to wear a headscarf. On the contrary, others have applauded Nike for producing an inclusive commodity. This will help women to compete effectively.
The sports hijab has existed years before Nike decided to make one. But, this will surely encourage new generations of athletes to pursue sports professionally. The product has also been tested by figure skater Zahra Lari. Lari is from Abu Dhabi and represents the United Arab Emirates. She will hopefully compete in the Winter Olympics next year in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
“Can’t believe this is finally here!!” she wrote on her Instagram page.