Nike, the well-known U.S. sportswear company, recently introduced a sports hijab. The reaction to this has been mixed: There are those who are applauding Nike for its inclusiveness of Muslim women who want to cover their hair, and there are those who accuse it of abetting women’s subjugation.
Nike, in fact, is not the first corporate brand to champion the hijab. I am the author of “Brand Islam,” and I have seen how it is commonly assumed, particularly in the West, that Muslim women are indifferent to fashion.
Nothing could be further from the truth: My research shows that Islamic fashion is a rapidly growing industry.
History of sports hijab
The use of an official sports hijab in competition dates back to July 2012 when the International Football Association Board (IFAB), custodians of the rules of soccer, overturned a 2007 ban which had argued that the hijab was “unsafe” for sports persons as it could “increase” the risk of neck injuries.
While overturning the ban, the IFAB noted that there was nothing in “the medical literature concerning injuries as a result of wearing a headscarf.” The sports hijab is secured in place with magnets. If it does get pulled off, another cap remains underneath, to cover the sports person’s hair without causing any injuries.
In 2012, Muslim athletes wearing the hijab received considerable media attention. Wearing the hijab set them apart from other Olympic athletes. Since then, several lesser-known, sports hijab companies – much before Nike’s pro hijab – have come to be in this business.