Last year, Ibtihaj Muhammed made international news when she became the first Muslim-American athlete to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab. Since then, there have been other important 'firsts' for hijabi athletes—a fitness magazine put a hijabi woman on their cover for the first time, and Nike became the first sportswear giant to make a performance hijab. Now, a high school in Portland, Maine has become the first institution in America to offer sports hijabs to their female Muslim athletes.
"I did not do any tennis until now because I was so nervous and shy about wearing my stylish hijab during an athletic event," Tabarek Kadhim, a sophomore at Deering High School, told the Portland Press Herald last week. "Now I can actually play and not worry about my hijab falling off."
The school's athletic director Melanie Craig hopes that introducing these hijabs will encourage more Muslim girls to play sports—something they find difficult to do while wearing traditional headscarves.
"You often see them flipping a scarf over their shoulder while they're trying to get the ball," Craig told the Herald of traditional hijabs. "We pride ourselves in celebrating our diversity, but this has really been a challenge for my female Muslim student-athletes."
"If I'm going to buy a football helmet," Craig continued, "I'm going to buy a hijab."
So far, Craig has bought 25 sports hijabs from ASIYA—the only athletic wear brand that offers these garments in the U.S.—until Nike debuts their hijabs next spring. (Related: Hummel Sportswear Debuts Soccer Jersey's With Built-In Hijabs.)
As imagined, the school's effort to be more inclusive has really struck a chord with their Muslim students. "I feel like, within the Muslim community and communities of color, we weren't really heard before," lacrosse player Sulwan Ahmed told the Herald. "Now our teachers are listening to us."
We have high hopes that this move will motivate other schools to make the same move to encourage and support female Muslims who want to be active.