Maine high school raises money to buy sport hijabs for its Muslim students
PORTLAND, Maine — Muslim athletes at one U.S. high school have been given sport headscarves. Now, they do not have to worry about their headscarves falling off as they play sports.
Deering High School in Portland, Maine, is providing its students with sport hijabs. The goal is to make Muslim girls comfortable and boost their participation in sports. The lightweight scarves stay put and are less bulky than other hijabs. These garments cover the hair and are worn by many Muslim women to express their faith in Islam, one of the world's most popular religions.
"We're more confident on the field," said junior lacrosse player Fadumo Adan. "This one doesn't fall off. No matter what I do, it won't fall off."
Tennis co-captains Liva Pierce and Anaise Manikunda raised more than $800 online to buy the sporty hijabs for their Muslim teammates. The school's athletic director was the one who told them about the product. They asked for private donations to avoid criticism for using taxpayer funds on religious clothing. They ended up with enough to outfit all teams, including lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, softball, field hockey and track.
First School To Provide Hijabs
The high school is believed to be the first in the United States to provide hijabs for Muslim athletes, instead of students providing their own headscarves, said Ibrahim Hooper. He is the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy group for Muslim Americans.
Around the world, more Muslim women are finding ways to play sports while wearing hijabs. Some Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia, impose severe limitations on women engaging in sports. Cultural attitudes and family opposition can also pose hurdles.
The International Basketball Federation and the international soccer organization FIFA lifted bans on head coverings in recent years. Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. She won a bronze medal in fencing at the 2016 Rio Games.
Muslim students at Deering said they were grateful for the hijabs. The support comes at a time when Republican President Donald Trump has pushed to ban travel from several Muslim countries.
Lack Of Hijab Prevents Participation
Israa Enan is a senior who was born in Iraq, a Middle Eastern country where most people are Muslim. She said she stayed off the school's tennis team because her parents had concerns about the uniform and lack of hijab.
"I wished I was one of these girls who wear the hijabs and play with it, but it's OK," Enan said. "I'm too late now." She said she's "happy for the other girls who have the opportunity now to wear the hijab and be more comfortable doing the things they like to do."
Maine has the highest percentage of white people in the country. However, more and more people of color are moving to the state from other countries. There are about 10,000 African newcomers, mostly from the countries of Somalia and Sudan, in Maine's two largest cities, while others have come from the Middle East.
The tennis co-captains are not Muslim. Pierce, though, said there was a "Duh!" moment when she discussed the idea with Melanie Craig, the athletic director.
Team Captains Who Care
"This makes so much sense. If there's something that we can do to make our teammates feel more comfortable, then why not just do it?" Pierce said.
Her Muslim teammates appreciated the effort.
"There are some people who actually care, respect and love others, and they are actually accepting of others, which makes me really happy," said tennis team member Tabarek Kadhim. She moved to Maine four years ago from the Middle Eastern country of Jordan.
Nike announced last month that it will begin marketing a sport hijab next year, bringing the product into the mainstream. Craig, however, did not wait. She found a sport hijab manufactured by Asiya, a company that raised more than $39,000 in November to expand beyond selling locally in Minnesota.
Sport Hijabs Are In Demand
Asiya is preparing to move manufacturing to New York to keep up with demand, said Fatimah Hussein. She is a Somalia native who coaches basketball and helped start the business. The clothing company is named for Asiya bint Muzahim, a key figure in Islamic history known for standing up to injustice.
The market for the sport hijab has potential. There are more than 610,000 Muslim women under 20 across the United States, according to the Pew Research Center.
"We're hopeful that this does encourage more Muslim female athletes to participate," said Craig. "I do believe it has held some of them back. It takes courage for them to stand out here and honor who they are and their diversity."