By Muskaan Walia If you are new here, allow me to introduce you to the…
“The Nike Pro Hijab will help advance the conversation around hijabs and Muslim women in sports and further make sports an inclusive space,” says Ibtihaj Muhammad, a U.S. Olympian and champion Fencer. And so it has. We spoke with Baneen Al-Sachit, a member of our Anti-Racism Respect Committee and asked her to share her thoughts on what her experience has been like as an athlete who wears a hijab. This is what she had to say.
“As a child, I would run to join any opportunity in which I could stay active. Growing up, hockey always stuck out to me. Although I never had the chance to play in a sports club due to financial barriers, I was still able to practice my skills in my basement. I was also fortunate enough to enroll in skating lessons as a child.
In spite of receiving minimal encouragement from my fellow peers to remain physically active, I continued to do as much as I could. I began skateboarding at eight years old and experienced some backlash as skateboarding was still considered a boys’ sport at the time. I would often be told that the sport was not meant for me and rather that it was just for boys. Despite these hurtful comments, I continued with what I had fun doing. I refused to believe that any specific activity was meant strictly for boys and that if they could do it, I could excel at it. I chose to make my hijab something that empowers me and gives me confidence rather than something that holds me back.
Attending a girl’s school really enabled me to stay physically active and try new sports, all within an environment where I felt comfortable. I was able to play sports such as lacrosse, field hockey, basketball, track and field, snowboarding, rock-climbing and more. Today, I still skateboard, go for the occasional run/bike ride and hit the climbing wall when I can.”
Though slow to arrive, there are more and more resources and benefits that are emerging specifically for the Hijab athlete community. “I have noticed that there are a lot of girls-only programs emerging and more hijabi-friendly athletic clothing being made which drastically eases the struggle of finding modest athletic clothing while remaining comfortable.” As the resources increase, we hope to see even more representation increase.
“Growing up, I never saw any female athletes that resembled myself, and I think that plays a vital role in a young hijabi girls’ confidence as it provides them with a sense of relatability and confidence because “she looks like me”. For girls, whether they are Muslim or not, the representation of other girls from different cultural and/or religious backgrounds is important and can help inspire girls from any background to pursue their dreams.
I feel glad that there is more Muslim representation that is emerging for young hijabi girls. I know that every time I see an advertisement including a hijabi, I feel over the moon, so I know how important it is for those young girls who are just starting to wear the hijab to see this kind of representation in the media.” As representation grows, Baneen hopes that “more people [become] aware of the fact that hijab is not a limitation or a sign of oppression; rather, it is empowering and encouraging. Hijab allows for a girl to be seen for her intelligence, her skills, and her personality rather than solely her looks.”
After all these years of just “making it work” in sports, Baneen recently found out that she would be receiving a Nike Pro Hijab herself. “I am very honoured to be a part of this giveaway as I am becoming exactly what I wished to have when I was a young girl. I hope that we can inspire young Muslim girls to stay involved in sports because I believe that it is vital for their development for many reasons. The act of physical activity improves mental health, boosts your confidence, and helps to develop strong leadership skills which is important for a girls’ future. It also helps in making a statement and inspiring other young hijabi girls. It is time that hijabis get the representation and attention they deserve.”
This is just the beginning Baneen. We look forward to more young athletes like yourself saying yes to sport and movement!
Huge thank you to Hijabi Ballers, a project based in the Greater Toronto Area seeking to recognize and celebrate the athleticism of Muslim girls and women, for providing Fast and Female with Nike Pro Hijabs to be given away to 6 lucky winners!
This contest is now closed! Congratulations to our winners who have been contacted directly!