News

    Athletic, Muslim, Fashionable - a Tale of the Sports Hijab

    Olympic hopeful, 17-year-old Zeinab Hammoud
    Olympic hopeful, 17-year-old Zeinab Hammoud

    Multimedia

    Tala Hadavi

    Female Muslim athletes who observe a strict Islamic dress code sometimes face the question of whether they will be allowed to participate in major competitions -- with their heads and most of their bodies covered.  Now, one Iranian-Canadian woman is marketing a product to change that.  It complies with the requirements of many major sports, and it’s fashionable, safe and comfortable -- while still meeting Islamic requirements.

    An Olympic hopeful faces a small obstacle

    Seventeen-year-old Zeinab Hammoud has a brown belt in Taekwondo, and dreams of one day making it to the Olympics.  But unlike her sister, Rana, Zeinab chooses to wear the Islamic headscarf, or hijab.  

    This became a problem four years ago. The team’s hard work, passion and hopes were dashed when the Taekwondo Federation of Quebec expelled them from a tournament in 2007. The reason: their hijabs were considered unsafe. “I was really disappointed because I trained really hard for that tournament. When I found out we were expelled I lost all my motivation to continue,” Hammoud said.

    Civil rights supporters and sports enthusiasts around the world were enraged. Elham Seyed Javad was one of them. “In my opinion every individual, no matter their religion, should have the same rights as anyone else in society," he stated. "I mean, sports was made to re-unite people."

    Athletic fashion

    Javad was an industrial design student at the time, so she decided to take on the problem as one of her school projects. "At the time, in 2008, when I decided to take on this project, the international federation of Taekwondo didn’t allow its athletes to wear anything under the helmet. So my professor didn’t think there was a point of pursuing it.  But my point was, the rule is there because nothing has been invented that is appropriate," she explained.

    Javad spent countless hours with the Hammoud sisters’ taekwondo team and with pattern maker Latifa Boukenda, to make the best product possible. “This was a very exciting project for me. I’ve worked in fashion for many years but this was special because it was beyond fashion," she said. "It had a more human and social aspect to it. helping young women blossom and follow their athletic dreams."

    Ultimately, they hit upon a design that worked, and a fabric that was stretchy, breathable, and dried quickly.  Called a “ResportOn,” the garment was an immediate hit.

    Even Zeinab’s sister Rana, who chooses not to wear the hijab, was impressed. “I just tried the Resport hijab and the hair was inside so it doesn’t come out and it’s very comfortable so you can play without trying to put your hair inside all the time,” she noted.

    Rules reconsidered, changed

    Javad’s invention came at an opportune time.  A year later, in response to pressure from the taekwondo community, the World Taekwondo Federation changed its rules to allow for head-coverings.

    The Montreal Muslim Taekwondo team was able to compete again.

    “I was in the stands and got teary-eyed because since the very beginning my goal was to be able to see the girls on the mats again. When it happened it was like someone gave me the world," Javad stated.

    Javad thought she was just helping Zeinab and her teammates.  But when an investor approached her about marketing the product, things changed dramatically.  In January, her sports hijab became available to athletes all over the world.  She has been busy ever since. “My days start at 2am when my phone goes off with an email from an athlete from the other side of the world. I turn it on and read the email, get happy and go back to sleep," she said.

    While there are other sports hijabs on the market, Javad believes hers has some advantages.  Those include a built-in t-shirt that keeps it from pulling loose, and an opening at the back that allows easy access for wearers to adjust their hair.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora