Is the Number of Muslim Women Participating in Sports an Indication of Cultural Norm or Disinterest?

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Background Information

  • The human body is designed for physical activity. (Fakier, 2015)
  • Our bodies are perfectly engineered to fulfill our basic needs and to achieve what we set out to do. (Fakier, 2015)
  • However, Muslim women face many barriers to sports and exercise (i.e., hijab bans, large-scale poverty and religious intolerance) (Fakier, 2015)
  • But one of the biggest barriers originates from within their own communities. (Fakier, 2015)
  • The belief that women’s participation in sport and exercise in public is unacceptable (Fakier, 2015)

The Theology

  • It is commonly misbelieved that Islam does not allow women’s involvement in sport. However, many Muslims believe that Islam supports physical activity for all—including women. (Isard, 2005)
  • Three main reasons for why Islam supports athletics are: (Isard, 2005)
    O to be healthful
    O to make time for leisure
    O and to be ready for war
  • These rights are given to all Muslims, which would include women. (Isard, 2005)
  • "Research also indicates that some women in a study felt that there was a positive obligation to participate in sport—not just that it was permitted." (Isard, para.2, 2005)

Cultural Norm

  • Religious beliefs - wearing hijab while out in public or playing (Walseth, 2006)
  • Certain values and beliefs (Walseth, 2006)
  • Requirement of being completely removed from males during exercise- female only environment (Walseth, 2006)
  • Required to cover your body- not exposing your legs or arms (Walseth, 2006)
  • Dress code- deciding on a team uniform causes complexities (Walseth, 2006)
  • Modesty- respect of own religion/culture (Walseth, 2006)

Solidarity Games

  • Specifically for Muslim women, founded in 1991 by Fa' zeh Hashemi in Tehran (Isard, 2005)
  • Can be looked at as Muslim Olympics for women (Isard, 2005)
  • Allows athletes to wear modern sports attire while playing (Isard, 2005)
  • Only other women are allowed into the stadiums (Isard, 2005)
  • Now welcomes non-Muslim countries to send members from their Muslim communities (Isard, 2005)


  • Discouraged by society to participate in the sports world (Benn, T., Pfister, G., & Jawad, H., 2010)
  • Discriminated because of their hijabs or the attire they wear (Benn, T., Pfister, G., & Jawad, H., 2010)
  • View on sports changed - change of perspective (Benn, T., Pfister, G., & Jawad, H., 2010).
  • Negative attitude towards sports (Benn, T., Pfister, G., & Jawad, H., 2010).


  • Facilities that come in between (i.e., praying, fasting in Ramadan) (Fakier, 2015)
  • May interfere with designated times of prayer (five times a day) (Fakier, 2015)
  • Societal and familial pressure (Fakier, 2015)
  • Religious restrictions (Fakier, 2015)
  • Lack of appropriate facilities (Fakier, 2015)
  • Inability of the leagues to accommodate Muslim athletes (Fakier, 2015)
  • Bottom line: it is not Islam which excludes women and girls from sport, rather, it is the inability of the leagues to accommodate Muslim athletes or the lack of appropriate facilities which deter them from participating (Fakier, 2015)


  • Muslim women (specifically who participate in sports)
  • Media
  • News channels
  • Researchers

Limitations of My Research

  • Difficult to find academic journal articles and other credible sources that could directly relate to my inquiry question
  • Coming up with themes/sub-themes
  • Finding statisitics that could prove my points

Future Research

  • I believe that for one of my themes- Disinterest; I could look into it a bit more for further exploration, since I couldn't find much information on it
  • I could focus on just one specific sport, rather than looking at sports in general
  • I could also focus more on what the media says about the participation of Muslim women
  • Some new research questions: What sport specifically do Muslim women have a low participation rate in because of their religious beliefs?
  • I would also compare Muslim women who wear a hijab and play sports and Muslim women who don’t wear a hijab and still play sports
  • In addition, I would look at the participation rate comparing these two women of the same religion



Benn, T., Pfister, G., & Jawad, H. (2010). Muslim Women and Sport. Retrieved from

Fakier, F. (2015, April 10). Muslim women in sport: culture vs religion. Retrieved June 10, 2015, from

Isard, R. (2005). Muslim Women in Sport. Retrieved June 10, 2015, from

Walseth, K. (2006, August). Young Muslim Women ad Sport: the Impact of Identity Work. Leisure Studies, 25(1), 75-94. Retrieved from


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