Leveling the Playing Field for Muslim Women

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, girl’s participation is athletics helps build lifelong social and leadership skills while also greatly benefitting their mental and physical health. The issue is, there are many reasons such as lack of access and social stigmas, that girls stop participating in athletics if they join at all. For Muslim girls, this is made even tougher by the fact that many wear hijabs, which can be warm, uncomfortable, and potentially unsafe during athletics. Enter ASIYA, an active wear company formed by Fatimah Hussein dedicated to providing high quality, modest active wear to empower Muslim women and girls to get involved in athletics.

Fatimah Hussein, a Minneapolis, MN, native saw the need to help young Muslim girls get access to sports and physical activity at the Brian Coyle Community Center. She saw that most girls would simply sit and watch the boys play sports and wouldn’t get involved. When she asked around she found that a lot of the girls’ parents were not ok with them sharing the gym time with the boys and that stopped many from participating. After this, Hussein started a once per week girls only gym time for girls between 3rd grade and high school. This allowed the girls to get active without the need to wear their modest hijabs because there weren’t any boys around. The girls’ gym time quickly filled up and the need for more space became an issue.

Hussein then formed a nonprofit called G.I.R.L.S. (Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports) to expand the girls only gym time to several nights a week and to further research into why the girls weren’t participating. What she found was that most girls didn’t join sports because they simply didn’t have access to the proper clothing: modest clothes that were meant for sports.

From there ASIYA was born. Rather than seek out single gender gym time, Hussein began to prototype sports focused hijabs that would empower Muslim women to seek out athletics without the need to separate themselves. They received a lot of great feedback from the Muslim community right away, highlighting the need to change fabrics to an even lighter fabric to perfect their hijab.

After winning funding through the MN Cup in 2016, ASIYA is now growing fast. They are collaborating with high schools and community sports organizations to offer custom hijabs to attract more Muslim girls to sports programs. They are planning to expand their offerings to include full tunics and other modest active wear ideal for physical activity without compromising religious beliefs. According to Hussein, this is about more than just sports, “Giving Muslim girls access to athletics empowers them by showing that they don’t have to spectate, they can be the team captains, the star players and the leaders of tomorrow.”

Photo credit: asiyasport.com