Beyond the Hijab: Female Muslims and Physical Activity

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal

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Yuka NakamuraUniversity of Toronto e-mail:

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Researchers have identified significantly low participation rates of Muslim women in international and recreational sport, citing reasons ranging from alleged discriminatory Islamic doctrine to incompatibility with Islamic beliefs. However, there are several examples of Muslim women participating in international competitions and recreational activities on their own terms, leading one to believe that perhaps the Western physical activity cultures are different from Islamic physical activity cultures. In this paper, I examine the physical activity experiences of Muslim women who were born in or immigrated to Canada. There are three areas where physical activity within an Islamic framework differs from that of a Western sport ideology. They were: a flexible and modest dress code, sex segregation, and controlled access to their physical activity space. When such needs were not met by the physical education system or existing recreational facilities, subjects compromised their beliefs, participated with their religious community, or stopped playing completely.

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