Sport is good. It reduces stress, improves cardiovascular functions and muscles, often becomes a vehicle for social relationships and, of course, helps in controlling weight and physical fitness.
It therefore goes without saying that an impediment to playing sports amounts to a deprivation from all these things. But if the impediment comes from one's religion, the matter becomes more complex.
Hijab is a veil worn by Muslim women that generally covers the head and chest. In the Qur'an it is clearly indicated that women must dress according to certain standards of modesty and privacy, in order to avoid attracting unwanted attention from men (Quran, 24:31). Is it possible to reconcile this with the desire to play sports of these women? And if so, how?
Nike has just launched "Nike Victory Swim", to allow even those who want to remain completely covered to move freely in the water. The collection includes: the Nike Victory Full-Coverage premium swimsuit and swimming accessories such as Nike Victory Swim Hijab, Nike Victory Swim Tunic Top and Nike Victory Swim Leggings.
It is not the first time that Nike has met the needs of Muslim athletes. Already in 2017 Nike Pro Hijab was born, and commenting on it, the fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad had anticipated: "The Nike Pro Hijab will help to carry on the conversation about hijab and Muslim women in sports, and later to make the world of sports an inclusive space".
The Emirati figure skater, Zahra Lari, the first in her sport to wear the hijab in competition, is excited to be able to use this costume in her additional swimming sessions. "It's so different from any swimsuit I've ever seen and I know I can wear it and feel confident", she commented.
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“I think a lot of women will be excited for this swimsuit. It’s not just Muslim women. A lot of women are modest as well.” ⠀ Making waves in the Nike Victory Swim Collection, featuring lightweight, full-coverage swimsuits designed to give you freedom of movement in the water.
But Zahra is not the first athlete to welcome hijab in the sports world. Already in 2016, the first Iranian Olympic medalist Kimia Alizadeh Zenoorin and the Egyptian Hedaya Wahba competed wearing the hijab, which was also maintained throughout the awards ceremony. Even Noor Ahmed and Nor "Phoenix" Diana, respectively an American Muslim golfer and a Malaysian wrestler, have never abandoned the hijab in their sports career, despite the racist comments received throughout its duration.
Nike was not the first brand to take this step. 17 years ago, Dutchman Cindy van den Bremen gave birth to the first sports hijab, after learning that a girl had not been able to train for the insecurity due to the veil. A NYU student wrote to her: "With your designs, you can demonstrate my willingness to integrate but with my standards and my values". In France, in March 2019 Decathlon launched the Kalenji "racing veil" for only € 7.99, triggering a public debate so hot as to make the company retreat. Aurore Bergé, spokesperson for President Macron's La Republique En Marche party, said: “Sport emancipates, does not subjugate. My choice of woman and citizen will be to no longer trust a brand that has broken with our values. Those who tolerate women in public spaces only when they cover themselves do not like freedom”. A debate, therefore, still very open, in which Nike inserts its new swimming product.
The Nike Victory Swim collection is available on nike.com and at select retailers worldwide.