Nike recently announced it is releasing the Nike Pro Hijab for Muslim female athletes. Despite many seeing the move as a positive stride toward global acceptance of all religions and women by the company, some took issue with the hijab — believing it is oppressive toward women.
#Nike but I’m not going to support the oppression of woman in anyway, shape or form,” Twitter user Brian Fraser tweeted. “Congratulations, @Nike for normalizing the oppression of women through the Pro Hijab. Disgusting,” Connor R. Kenney wrote.
However, others have a different take on the garment. Amna Al Haddad, a female weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates who helped weigh in on the creation of the Pro Hijab, recently shared a lengthy letter explaining her take on the controversy and her thoughts on why the veil is being created at this moment in time.
She shared her experience competing in hijabs throughout her career and explained that many companies did not cater to Muslim female athletes’ performance wear in the past.
“From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not ‘popular’ and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise and compete in hijab,” she wrote.
She also explained that the noise made by Muslim female athletes surrounding the clothing issue made it pertinent enough for big companies, like Nike, to get involved.
“As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it — personally since 2011 — the big guys can’t help but notice us ‘the underdogs’ and our impact in the sports industry and world,” she wrote. “They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another ‘competitive’ sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now.”
Defending the retailer’s choice to expand into performance hijabs, she noted that the company should feel free to keep up with demand and their decision to cater to Muslim female athletes — regardless of people’s feelings on the religion. “As an innovative company, they will create products and they will meet market needs — whatever they may be. It is not dismissing any other hard work done in the past to develop sports hijabs, it’s just there is more competition in the market for modest clothing now.”
While many take issue with the fact that women wear the veil in Muslim society — feeling women should not have to cover themselves — the weightlifter says that how one wants to dress should be left up to the individual. “I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t ‘just do it.'”
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