Global Sports Partners
University of Tennessee
What’s Being Done for Muslim Women in Sport?
When asked to imagine a female Muslim, the first image to come to mind is probably not a strong and empowered athlete. In fact, the terms female Muslim athlete seem almost paradoxical in nature. According to the coverings required by Sharia Islamic Law, female participation opportunities would appear to be very limited and on an international and professional level this is very true. However, female pioneers such as Fazeah Hashemi of Iran have been persistent in pushing the reformist envelope for female sport experiences without abandoning Islamic core values. Due to Fazeah Hashemi’s persistence and her creation of the Islamic Federation for Women’s Sport (IFWS), the two have been successful in generating numerous opportunities for international competition among female Muslims. One such example is the Muslim Women’s Games, created by Hashemi in 1993 to provide an avenue for Muslim women to compete and experience sport on a global scale.
The most recent international female Muslim competition, the 4th Muslim Women’s Games, was held in Tehran, Iran in September 2005 and included 1,300 women from 43 countries, competing in 18 different sport disciplines. As with the Olympics, the ethos of the Muslim Games is solidarity and inclusion through competition using sport as a global language to bridge divides between countries and cultures. In order to further accomplish the aforementioned ethos, the 4th Women’s Games, unlike the previous three Games, were open to non-Muslim countries and non-Muslim participants. This inclusion afforded the opportunity for the first American female Muslim to compete in Iran since the 1979 Revolution accompanied by her non-Muslim American female coach.
This paper will utilize the experiences of the 4th Muslim Games to address the issues of self-empowerment, stereotypes, femininity verse masculinity, gender inequity, and sport, gender, and identity formation. This paper will also expound on other female Muslim athlete experiences outside of the Games, most recently in Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisie.