CNN
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Don’t be stunned if we hear extra about Muslim ladies in sports activities this yr.

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur is the No. 2 seed on the first grand slam of the 2023 tennis season – the Australian Open, which received underway on Monday.

Jabeur turned heads in 2022 with thrilling performances at Wimbledon and the US Open, and he or she’s not the one Muslim lady athlete within the highlight.

Doaa Elghobashy has been coaching to make Egypt’s Olympic seashore volleyball crew after she and her teammate had been the primary Egyptian ladies to compete in Seashore volleyball on the Olympics in 2016.

In the meantime, three-time NCAA All American and Olympic bronze medalist in fencing, Ibtihaj Muhammad goals to empower ladies and ladies by way of sports activities, her clothes line and books. And three-time Egyptian Olympian, Aya Medany is working to extend gender equality in sport.

These Muslim ladies have made historical past of their respective competitions and opened doorways for a brand new technology of athletes.

Regardless of their accomplishments and years of progress making sport extra inclusive of Muslim ladies and ladies, there are nonetheless hurdles to clear.

It is a take a look at the roads to success for Jabeur, Elghobashy, Medany and Muhammad and the way altering guidelines have impacted their religion and participation in sport.

In keeping with the Pew Analysis Middle, there have been almost two billion Muslims across the globe in 2019.

Lately, Muslim ladies and ladies have competed in a spread of sports activities on the world stage – from fencing to determine skating.

However even with the rise of media and social media protection, an actual variety of Muslim ladies athletes is troublesome to pinpoint partly as a result of some don’t vocalize their beliefs or put on clothes indicative of their religion.

Nonetheless, over the previous few years, camps and group packages designed to show Muslim ladies to sports activities and assist them develop athletic abilities have elevated – like Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir’s group, Dribbling Down Boundaries.

Influencer and former Somali Nationwide Basketball crew captain, Jamad Fiin hosts a basketball camp for Muslim ladies, whereas Toronto-based Hijabi Ballers hosts coaching packages in numerous sports activities.

And extra Muslim majority international locations have allowed ladies to take part in worldwide sporting occasions.

In keeping with the Worldwide Olympic Committee, almost half of all rivals within the 2020 Tokyo Olympics – 5,457 – had been ladies.

Of these athletes, almost 380 represented international locations designated as Muslim-majority, in response to a 2017 Pew examine.

The 2016 Summer season Olympics hosted a barely smaller share of feminine athletes – a report on the time. There have been simply over 5,000 ladies rivals that yr, and simply over 380 got here from Muslim-majority international locations.

Some sports activities organizations have made it simpler for them to compete in modest uniforms. Take the worldwide federations governing basketball and soccer.

The Worldwide Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) rule banning non secular head coverings was overturned in 2017 and the worldwide group governing soccer (FIFA) lifted their ban on head coverings three years earlier.

Within the US, the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive Faculty Associations (NFHS) not too long ago modified its guidelines to allow pupil athletes to compete in non secular head coverings so long as they don’t pose a danger to different gamers.

For the Nationwide Collegiate Athletic Affiliation (NCAA), headgear guidelines differ by sport. Ladies’s basketball guidelines at present requires college students to get waivers to put on non secular headwear.

An NCAA spokesperson advised CNN Sports activities the group has granted the entire basketball waivers prior to now and that it’s contemplating a proposal in Could to drop the requirement.

And in response to WNBA PR, the Ladies’s Nationwide Basketball Affiliation (WNBA) doesn’t require gamers to submit waivers.

Lately, laws like Maryland’s Inclusive Apparel Act, which permits college students to change athletic or crew uniforms to evolve with their non secular necessities, has handed. Only some different states – Ohio, Illinois, and Utah – have related legal guidelines on their books.

Sports activities sociologist, Jay Coakley, known as these developments promising. He’s taught concerning the connections between sports activities, tradition, and society on the College of Colorado.

The participation of Muslim ladies in sports activities was placed on his radar on the Brighton Convention on Ladies and Sport in 1994.

“I at all times thought that the best way Muslim ladies had been clothed was grounded in discrimination and that it constituted a big barrier for ladies taking part in society,” he advised CNN Sports activities.

“I listened to, particularly the ladies from Egypt who had been in full burkas and with their face coated as much as the decrease a part of the eyes (and) higher cheekbones … They noticed it as a supply of freedom.”

Nonetheless, Coakley warned that any progressive insurance policies are solely as everlasting because the individuals who wish to implement them.

In different phrases, guidelines can change.

Tunisian Jabeur, ranked No. 2 on the planet in ladies’s tennis by the Ladies’s Tennis Affiliation (WTA), had a stellar report in 2022.

The 28-year-old reached the finals of Wimbledon and the US Open final yr and in addition competed in her first WTA Finals occasion, which is open to the highest eight ladies’s singles and doubles tennis gamers on the planet.

Jabeur, who was born in Tunisia, began taking part in on the age of three. In 2017, she broke into the world’s prime 100.

The WTA doesn’t have any restrictions for gamers who wish to put on one or every other non secular overlaying. Overlaying legs and arms can be allowed.

Jabeur, who doesn’t compete in a hijab, was not accessible to remark about it when later contacted by CNN Sports activities.

However she advised media at a US Open press convention that her highway to success hasn’t been simple.

“There (are) plenty of difficulties rising up coming from Tunisia (and) it’s not simple to imagine which you can be right here sooner or later, however fortunately I made it occur,” she mentioned about how she grew to become concerned in tennis.

“It’s simply a part of the method and I really feel like it is best to at all times have difficulties to be stronger, to be right here sooner or later and face the most effective tennis gamers on the planet.”

The US Open tweeted that Jabeur was “the primary North African, Arab, and Tunisian lady to achieve the #USOpen last.”

An analogous tweet was posted a number of months earlier by Wimbledon. Jabeur superior to the finals at that event as effectively.

Jabeur’s success is attracting extra folks to the game. In keeping with the Ladies’s Tennis Affiliation, membership within the Tunisian Tennis Federation has grown and the variety of younger Tunisians displaying curiosity within the sport has climbed with Jabeur’s success.

Media at a 2022 US Open press convention requested about her capacity to encourage younger ladies to play tennis. Jabeur smiled.

“I hope I can ship a strong message that if I made it right here, all people could make it right here. Particularly for ladies from totally different international locations, particularly from ladies from the Center East, from the Arab world,” mentioned Jabeur, who has been dubbed by Tunisians “The Minister of Happiness,” advised media.

In Cairo, Egypt, 26-year-old Doaa Elghobashy is competing on her personal phrases. She’s among the many prime 500 volleyball gamers on the planet and is coaching to assist Egypt’s seashore volleyball crew qualify for a second time within the 2024 Olympics, with new teammate Farida El Askalany.

Elghobashy has skilled what another Muslim ladies by no means have – help and acceptance from her sport’s governing physique.

She made her Olympic debut in 2016 in Rio De Janeiro. The Worldwide Volleyball Federation (FIVB) gave her last-minute permission to compete within the Video games in hijab, making Elghobashy the primary hijabi athlete to take action in seashore volleyball.

“I used to be so glad that they made the choice, as a result of it meant they had been giving [an] alternative for extra folks to take part within the Olympics,” mentioned Elghobashy, by way of a translator, in an interview with CNN Sport.

“I’ve the fitting to play sports activities in no matter I really feel comfy in,” added Elghobashy.”

Elghobashy wears hijab, lengthy sleeves and pants on the courtroom. She mentioned she’d oppose anybody who would attempt to cease her.

“The hijab is a part of me,” she advised CNN Sports activities on a break between practices. “On the finish of the day, it’s a sport and I’m not a mannequin. I’m an athlete and other people ought to focus extra on my athleticism quite than my garments.”

“Simply because I’m a hijabi doesn’t imply that I shouldn’t have the chance to play on the Olympics,” she added. “I did this, I achieved it. I deserved it.”

In keeping with the Worldwide Olympic Committee, all taking part Muslim majority international locations despatched ladies to the 2016 Summer season Video games, apart from Iraq.

Simply 4 years earlier, all Olympic nations had ladies athletes on their groups for the primary time in fashionable Olympic historical past. This included Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei, which allowed ladies to take part within the Video games for the primary time on the 2012 London Olympics.

This was largely celebrated as a step ahead for ladies in sports activities, however some, like 34-year-old former Olympic pentathlete Aya Medany, took a step again.

She was the primary Olympic pentathlete to compete in a hijab when she represented Egypt within the 2012 London Video games.

The pentathlon is an occasion comprised of 5 totally different sports activities – operating, swimming, fencing, capturing and horseback driving. All of those occasions, apart from swimming, permit Muslim ladies to decorate modestly.

Nonetheless, the swimsuit rules had been a problem for Medany, and a part of why she says she stopped competing in 2013.

“It was a really powerful determination and like mentally it wasn’t simple,” Medany advised CNN Sports activities. “I really feel from inside that I’m not okay, however that is the one means. That is the easiest way, the most effective within the worst state of affairs.”

Like many swimmers, Medany wore a full physique go well with within the Athens Video games in 2004 and Beijing in 2008. After the Worldwide Swimming Federation (FINA) introduced a ban on the total physique fits in competitors would go into impact in 2010, she began to contemplate retirement.

She mentioned this was an issue for her as a result of she wished to decorate modestly – to totally cowl her arms, legs and torso – a non secular precept she values.

Nonetheless, the swimsuits grew to become an issue for FINA after over 100 world information had been set by swimmers carrying the go well with. Leaders of FINA had been involved that the go well with, which was product of polyurethane, would possibly assist a swimmer’s velocity, buoyance and endurance.

Medany tried to adapt by competing in swimsuits that didn’t totally cowl her physique. It paid off athletically. She certified for the London Video games, however spiritually, she mentioned the change didn’t sit effectively together with her.

She initially retired in March 2013 – citing her discomfort with the foundations, the Arab Spring, and accidents.

A couple of years later, she returned to worldwide competitors within the pentathlon and particular person fencing. She mentioned household and training employees helped her course of the religious discomfort with the swimsuit rules.

She mentioned she retired once more in 2020 due to the pandemic. A yr later, she was appointed to the Egyptian parliament.

She’s additionally a member of the Worldwide Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Fee and teaches fencing to ladies in a Jordanian refugee camp on behalf of the NGO, Peace and Sport.

The challenges Medany skilled as an athlete motivated her to attempt to make sports activities extra accessible to ladies and ladies from totally different backgrounds.

“I mentioned, ‘okay,’ that sooner or later I’m going to be within the different place, of their place, and I’m going to hearken to folks so no matter they’ve, no matter they want,” Medany mentioned.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, 37, mentioned she additionally confronted discrimination whereas coaching as a fencer in Maplewood, New Jersey.

She advised CNN Sports activities she began fencing on the age of 12, on the behest of her mom, who favored that fencing uniforms made it simple to apply modesty as they totally cowl the fencer’s physique.

“She noticed this distinctive alternative for me to take part in a sport as a Muslim child with out having to run to Modell’s or Dicks Sporting Items so as to add one thing to the uniform like I did in observe and discipline or in tennis,” Muhammad mentioned.

She recalled having to ask permission to compete in her hijab in highschool. When she competed, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Affiliation (NJSIAA) required pupil athletes who wished to change uniforms for non secular causes to file a letter with the college’s athletic director.

She mentioned they had been requested to be able to current the letter to officers at each sporting occasion. Muhammad mentioned she felt the rule was utilized selectively.

“Everybody knew that I wore hijab, but it surely was actually simply form of like this discriminatory factor that occurred to me as a child,” she mentioned. “And it was simply form of regular. I didn’t know if I used to be going to have the ability to play.”

NJSIAA modified its guidelines in 2021 and not requires pupil athletes to get approval to compete in non secular head coverings.

Like Medany, Muhammad mentioned she hopes to make sports activities extra welcoming for Muslim ladies and ladies.

She authored a kids’s ebook known as “The Proudest Blue,” which celebrates range. She’s promoted the Nike “Professional Hijab,” which goals to make it simpler for hijabi athletes to compete.

Mattel created a Barbie doll that regarded like Muhammad as a part of their “Shero” assortment in 2017.

Muhammad has additionally been vocal about different social justice points – from secure consuming water to athletes with disabilities.

The day CNN Sports activities spoke with Muhammad, WNBA star Brittney Griner, had been sentenced to 9 years in a Russian penal colony for drug smuggling.

“My coronary heart is with Brittney and her household for what’s taking place,” Muhammad mentioned in the course of the August interview.

“I can’t even think about being on this state of affairs, however I do really feel like this might have occurred to anybody and this is the reason we have now to proceed to battle for her freedom as a result of I really feel like particularly as athletes this might’ve been any of us.”

Griner was launched from Russian detention in December.

Muhammad, Medany, Jabeur and Elghobasy say they hope to make a big impression for the following technology of Muslim ladies athletes. They function mentors and have been residing markers of how change is feasible.

“I’ve at all times felt like I used to be doing it due to the dearth of illustration, and I need extra ladies who seem like me to really feel like they’ve a spot in sports activities. It doesn’t need to be fencing,” mentioned Muhammad.

“I simply need us to get on the market. I need us to really feel comfy, however I additionally need different folks to know that they need to be comfy with us being there as effectively.”

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