Hijab Headlines: On the integration of faith and sport
Nike’s announcement of their new “Pro Hijab” in early March has once again sparked the conversation on the use of hijabs in sport. Although specialty boutiques have sold hijabs tailored to use in sport for several years, the Pro Hijab is the first sport hijab to be created by a sportswear giant. Crafted with Nike’s signature polyester, its launch is scheduled for early next year. The creation of this product will help to break the taboo that has surrounded Muslim women’s use of hijabs in sport. Although the use of hijabs has been a controversy long talked about, the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has continued to ban the use of hijabs on the basketball court. This ban forces Muslim women to choose between their faith and their sport.
Even where the ban on hijabs and turbans has been lifted, this topic is still taboo, and female Muslim athletes wearing hijab on the world stage find themselves in the limelight—but not for their sport performance: headlines tend to feature the athlete’s attire ahead of their accomplishments. Despite living during a time that may be described as “post-Christian,” we are lucky to proclaim a faith that is still relatively ordinary and accepted in the context of North-American culture.
What does it look like to live out your faith in all aspects of your life?
It is a question I ask myself when I step onto the pole vault runway to practice and compete. Despite its team aspect, the world of sport is often individualistic and promotes self-improvement through your own effort and skill. The end goal is to come out on top, by virtue of your own power and performance. If the end goal of sport is not to be the best, the next most common expectation of athletes is that they compete for the love of their sport, and for the thrill of competition.
As a Christian athlete, I compete first and foremost for God: for his glory, using the gifts He has given me. I want to step onto the track to honour my teammates and my competitors. When I compete in this mindset, the difference in my performance is substantial—or at least, the difference is made in how I feel about my performance. When I compete for Christ, at the end of the day, win or lose, I have given my all for Him, and I can rest in the knowledge that my identity is in Christ, and that my worth is not defined by my performance.
While my own biggest roadblock to the integration of faith in my own sport is my human pride, a Muslim woman integrating faith into her own sport must overcome a bright spotlight and controversial attention.
I believe that maintaining a Christ-like posture within sport must involve the support of the women who wish to integrate their own faith into their sport. Integrating my faith into my sport means that I am competing not for my own glory, but to glorify God’s name, through honouring the gifts He has given me, and through showing Christ’s love through a posture of respect and solidarity towards all of my teammates and competitors.
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