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

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


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.
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.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs