Muslim student athletes at one US high school no longer have to be slowed down by worries that their headscarves might fall off. Deering High School in Portland, Maine, is providing sport hijabs with the goal of making Muslim girls comfortable — and boosting their participation in sports. The lightweight scarves stay put and are less bulky than other hijabs.
“We’re more confident on the field,” said junior lacrosse player Fadumo Adan. “This one doesn’t fall off. No matter what I do, it won’t fall off.” Israa Enan, a senior who was born in Iraq, said she stayed off the school’s tennis team because her parents had concerns about the uniform and lack of hijab.
Tennis co-captains Liva Pierce and Anaise Manikunda raised more than $800 online to buy the sporty hijabs for their Muslim teammates after the school’s athletic director learned of the product. They solicited private donations to avoid criticism for using taxpayer funds on religious apparel, and ended up with enough to outfit all teams, including lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, softball, field hockey and track.
The high school is believed to be the first in the United States to provide hijabs for Muslim athletes, as opposed to students providing their own headscarves, said Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. The move is part of a trend around the world of more Muslim women finding ways to play sports while wearing hijabs.
The International Basketball Federation and the international soccer organization FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years, and Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American to compete at the Olympics while wearing a hijab when she won a bronze medal in fencing at the 2016 Rio Games.
Maine — the nation’s whitest state — is becoming more culturally and racially diverse with immigration. There are about 10,000 African newcomers, mostly from Somalia and Sudan in Maine’s two largest cities, while others have come from the Middle East.
Nike announced last month that it’ll begin marketing a sport hijab next year, bringing the product into the mainstream. But Craig didn’t wait, finding a sport hijab manufactured by Asiya, a company that raised more than $39,000 in November to expand beyond selling locally in Minnesota.
Fatimah Hussein, a Somalia native who coaches basketball and co-founded the business pointed out that the market has potential. There are more than 610,000 Muslim women under 20 across the United States, according to the Pew Research Center.
Caption: Tabarek Kadhim, a sophomore at Deering High School in Portland, Maine, wears a sports hijab while playing a tennis match in Windham, Maine on May 24, 2017.