A figure skater wearing Nike's new hijab for Muslim female athletes. The product has drawn both praise and criticism since its announcement.

Figure skater Zahra Lari models Nike’s Pro Hijab, a product that has drawn both praise and criticism in the wake of its announcement. 


Nike has announced their latest product line: the Nike Pro Hijab, a female athletic head covering for Muslim athletes. Loosely defined as a headscarf or veil that covers a Muslim woman’s head, the hijab is a key symbol of modesty in Islamic culture and expresses an adherence to Islam. While the “Pro Hijab” has yet to hit the market, it is (unsurprisingly) already stirring up controversy.

Strong SupportersOlympic weightlifter Amna Haddad helped Nike develop its new Pro Hijab

The new product has been tested and developed with the help of two prominent Muslim athletes: professional figure skater Zahra Lari, and Olympic weight lifter Amna Al Haddad. Amidst the criticism, defenders of the sport hijab have been quick to emphasize the current need for such a product. They say that a performance head covering will encourage more Muslim women to participate in athletic activities and feel comfortable while doing so.

Amna Al Haddad supports Nike’s decision, explaining that it will enable a whole demographic of Muslim women whose traditional religious garb makes playing sports difficult.

Scathing Criticism

However, others do not share this enthusiasm. For them, the hijab is less an expression of religious freedom that it is a symbol of female oppression in Islamic society. Although not all Muslim countries mandate that women cover their heads, it is expected in many places.

Shortly after Nike made the announcement, scores of critics took to Twitter to voice their outrage. One angry user even accused Nike of “capitalizing off Islamic patriarchy by putting their brand on a chastity helmet.” Another vowed to boycott the company entirely:

 

Religious Freedom or Religious Oppression?A woman protesting for her right to wear a hijab

On its face, the idea of the hijab being the source of oppression for an entire group of people sounds somewhat preposterous. After all, most women say that they want to wear it. For them, it represents an important tenet of their faith. But that’s not to say that Islamic countries share the same attitudes toward gender equality as exist in the West.

For example, there remain very strict expectations for Muslim women to resign to the role of a homemaker. Strong cultural mores frown on women who pursue their own careers or have lives outside of their families. In Saudi Arabia, the situation is even worse. Due to adherence to Sharia law, women cannot vote, drive a car, or even leave the house unless accompanied by a man.

Perhaps the hijab in itself is not oppressive to women, but detractors also view it as a physical manifestation of sexist attitudes and policies borne out of Sharia law.

A Transforming World

In an increasingly diverse and multicultural world, you can walk down the street in nearly any country and spot someone sporting a hijab. It is ubiquitous in modern life. Some people will see a woman wearing one and not think twice about it. Others cannot help but take notice – and offense. With Nike’s athletic hijabs hitting stores sometime next year, the controversy surrounding this garment is unlikely to go away anytime soon.

So what do you think? Is the hijab simply an expression of faith, or is it representative of how men exercise control over women in Islamic countries? Do you support Nike’s decision to release the “Pro Hijab”?

 

17 comments

  1. Steve Wehrenberg says:

    “Is the hijab simply an expression of faith, or is it representative of how men exercise control over women in Islamic countries?”

    My simplistic answer is “yes.” It is both, since men exercising control over women is part of the faith itself. Interesting to note that it is only in the last century or so that western countries, and christian faiths, have decided that such control could be relaxed — and it is also noteworthy that many people still relegate the woman to a more subservient role. I haven’t cracked my bible for a while, but I’m pretty sure we can find many instances that mandate male control over females.

    I think getting upset at Nike is misplaced. They are not a social, political, entity. If there is a market for a sport hijab, it is Nike’s responsibility to investors to try to fill it.

  2. Miranda Allison Young says:

    I think it is a matter of personal preference. If people do not like it, then they can just not wear it. If they do not want to see it, then they just do not need to look at it. It is up to the individual woman.

  3. Linda weeks says:

    These decisions are up to the woman. Nike is looking to sell to a new market because they are in business to make money. I don’t like that they are profiting from female oppression, either. However, It could be a comfortable step in woman’s athletic wear for a woman who had always worn a headcover to perform her activities with her fellow athletes and possibly transition to no headcover, if that is her desire.

  4. mega says:

    Who cares?! It may be a symbol of oppression but its been worn for soo long now that most women i know who wear them are wearing them as a fashion statement. My wife doesn’t wear a hijab but if she did it still doesnt change the fact that she wears the pants in the relationship. My cousin is a Christian aussie which obviously doesn’t wear a hijab and gets her butt kicked by her husband quite constantly. He wont even leave the dinner table to get the salt.

    What im trying to say i suppose is that it doesn’t matter what religion or ethnicity you are. If you’re a wanker you are a wanker, simple as that. Nike hijab…..inevitable.

    1. Robert says:

      Who cares?? This is a disgrace, and we should not be supporting such attitudes toward women! The world would be much better if hijabs were outlawed entirely.

      1. mega says:

        You obviously didn’t read my post properly sir. My wife rules our relationship, people in my generation wear hijabs as fashion, my Christian cousin is oppressed by her husband without a hijab.

        You’re obviously just another muslim hating, narrow minded idiot.

        Does your wife wear a bra? Welll….not sure if you remember but bras were also considered a symbol of women oppression. Im sure nike makes those and if not maybe they should.

        You need to take a chill pill and take another look at the world bro. Hate not the religion but those who smear its name.

        FYI – Im a non religious aussie married to a muslim. Things have changed in most societies. Time for the haters to realize that its time to change also

  5. Robert says:

    Bad move by Nike! This isn’t religious expression, it’s enabling a F@*%$d up and backwards mentality. Women should be treated as equals, not as second class citizens who need to be “covered up”. I, for one, will be shopping at Adidas from now on.

  6. Alice Elyaman says:

    I am a Muslim woman convert. I have chosen to wear hijab, it was never forced on me. Have been a convert for almost 40 years. As a Muslim woman, I have never felt oppressed. It is freeing, because men do not overtly check me out as I am walking down the street. although now, because of the political atmosphere, I get both more stares and concerns for my safety.

    But, of course, thanks to the media, extremist groups, and humanity’s tendency to judge without “walking a mile in my shoes”, we Muslim women are the western symbol of oppression.Yet, in the West, in spite of verbal gender equality, women are paid less for the same job, sex trafficked, and abused by significant others. Not saying it does not happen in the Muslim world, but not as much as shown in the media. in 40 years, I have not seen it personally.

    For those that love to hate, and get sucked into the Media fear mongering, it is another topic to argue about. It would be nice if those who are the most vocal about my perceived oppression could have a Muslim family as neighbors, so they can have personal experience before they put out their opinions. Yet, it is what it is.

    As far as NIKE is concerned, Muslims have money,too, and Nike just wants some of it. but, by all means, all of you Haters, carry on discussing my horrible oppressive life dressing the same as the mother of Jesus (Peace be upon him) , whom you worship.

    1. mega says:

      Well put, alice. But im sorry to have to disagree about ‘women getting paid less than men in the same job’ part. It may be true in the higher paid jobs that are out of reach from most of us norms, but in the industry i work in the women get treated better and are paid more than most of the men. So all of the protesting by women about this problem definitely worked. But unfortunately its affected the wrong men. And once again the rich men stay rich.

      1. Alice Elyaman says:

        That is a blessing that you have found an industry where you are paid what you deserve. And yes, the rich DO stay rich.But, everything in this Universe is balanced, so they will be questioned on how they used their gifts.

        1. mega says:

          I get paid what i deserve??? Did i say something that has offended you to make such assumptions? The women in the job im in get special treatment because of all thd protests. I would of stuck up for you after seeing how abusive jurzeejoe was towards you in the following post but now i believe you deserve it. You’re just as demented as the rest of the sheep

    2. JurZeeJoe says:

      Hummm, you are ‘speaking’ to unknown men via this electronic force? Better be sure to go to me-KKK-ah and ask for forgiveness. The again, you may be executed should you even think about going there without your husband or father. Afterall, iz-SLUM has been the DE-ligion of violence since 632 AD, with 1453, 1766, and 9/11 as perfect proofs that destruction is the main focus of mud-HAM-mud followers. The again, perhaps one of your religious female leaders could offer advice -if even one can be found? In terms of Mary, what women of any sense would want to wear a 2000 yr old fashion style. AMEN

      1. Nellie says:

        “what women of any sense would want to wear a 2000 yr old fashion style.”

        Catholic women are frequently advised to be more like Mary. That is very common to this day.

        How specifically do you suggest we police everyone’s style and fashion? Shall we let other people decide what a woman is allowed to wear, while casting a blind eye on the fashion sins of males? Who should get to decide what is enough and what is too much? I understand that in jeans, a work shirt, and my hair tucked under a handkerchief I am not likely to be runway model chic, but since my job at the time is shoveling animal poop, I feel like rightly I have other priorities in that moment, and surely a man in a speedo, or socks with sandals is a much graver fashion sin than keeping chicken poop out of my hair. Who ultimately gets to decide? Does what you like to see matter more than what is comfortable to me?

        Tyranny over what a woman chooses to wear is still tyranny it doesn’t matter if it takes the form of liberal or conservative values of modesty and style. At the end of the day if you are on the side of telling a woman what she can and cannot wear, then you are on the side of oppression.

  7. Nellie says:

    I feel like how much of a persons own body they choose to make available for everyone to look at, is up to that person. Telling someone they have to show you their hair is just as ridiculous and entitled and demeaning as demanding they make any other body part of theirs available to you to inspect. It is true and tragic that throughout history and even now some countries, religions, societies, etc use modesty to control women but if we use forced exposure to fix it, then we aren’t any better. The issue is do we allow grown adults to choose for themselves how to dress. As for the product itself and Nike I think it is great that a safe and comfortable option is available, now if they could invent a way to keep my hair off my neck and out of my face without pulling or falling out mid run I would give them all of my money!

  8. JurZeeJoe says:

    iz-SLUM IS the Fayth of Violence! Having literally watched THE Trade Centers get built from my boyhood bedroom window (lived in Jersey City) and watched them destroyed on 9/11 during my trip to a conference from the GSParkway. Knowing how they discriminate against women and how they ruthlessly murder Gay people under the guise of the mud-HAM-mud’s ruthless story book. I want to ensure that nothing of that despicable De-ligion is to be ‘fostered’ or ‘allowed.’ If she wants to be so fulfilled by her beliefs’ then stay in Sordid Ah-ray-bee-ah where she will have to stay ay home and only be allowed out when her husband lets her and his other wives to go outside. A photo – isn’t that a form of idolatry? The eee-mahn will punish her for sure. AMEN

    1. Nellie says:

      It should be noted that covering ones head is not limited to only Islam, many other religions Judaism, and Christianity/Catholicism among them have rules regarding head and hair covering for both men and women. Devout Jewish women cover their hair, devout Jewish men cover their heads, many traditional Catholic women wear veils at church, and many many devout Protestant denominations call for women to wear a symbol of Authority upon their heads.

      So don’t forget that while the media and politicians want us to hate a specific entire religion. It is very hard to point to any large religion and absolve them of the autrocities you just listed. Additionally this particular product will help women of many religions because no matter how much we try to deny it, the reality is that at the end of the day this isn’t an Islamic product, many religions ask/recommend/require their followers especially their women to cover themselves in specific ways. It is athletic wear designed to let the wearer have control over her body and hair while she participates in a sport nothing more.

      I am not a Muslim but I was raised Catholic and covered my hair before praying, receiving communion, and entering a church for my entire childhood, and you better believe I tie my hair up in a scarf before doing farm chores ( not for religion but because I dislike animal bedding and straw in my hair). I also tie it up in a handkerchief just like I was taught in Girl Scouts if I am tending any sort of fire, or using power tools. I know Jewish women who wrap their hair every day as a symbol of their devotion to God. So there is an entire paragraph of examples of my personal life when hair covering has been something that I have personally been a part of, and I have never once been of the Islamic faith.

      I know culture has reinforced the idea that a whole religion is bad, and that there is no reasonable/rational/non terrorist reason for a woman to cover her hair or head, but that is simply not true. Sun is really bad for hair, so is wind. Washing it daily to get pollen and dirt out also bad for your hair, so are all those metal barrettes and rubber bands, so is salt water. I mean speaking of hair health alone everyone should have their hair wrapped under a scarf at the beach or doing outdoor activities. And I do know how hard 9/11 was for everyone, I spent the day frantically trying to locate my Uncle who worked in the Pentagon, but nothing that happened that day gives other people the right to tell me how to fix my hair. So while I see everyone reacting to this piece of clothing as some sort of Islamic thing (and yes Muslim women will benefit as well), but the reality is hair management is a daily activity for women around the world, and for a huge number of reasons only some of them religious many women choose to tie up or otherwise cover their hair.

      This isn’t about a religion, this is about women having the right and authority to decide for themselves how to dress.

  9. Alice Elyaman says:

    Wonder how many MUZZIES JurZeeJoe knows personally, or is he just spitting out the same propaganda he has been fed all his life. I also wonder what he is doing on a religious forum when GOD teaches tolerance and coexistence. TROLL, maybe?

Leave a Comment