Customs around clothing can present some challenges for Muslim women who wish to participate in sports. Religious expectations prefer women be more modest in their clothing, such as covering their body except the face and hands—hence many women practice ‘hijab’, which means ‘to cover’ in Arabic. The amount of skin covered depends on the depth of faith and the culture of various countries, and is most notably expressed through head wear: some Muslim women leave only their eyes exposed, others do not wear a headscarf at all.
The covering of the legs, arms, and head has made it challenging for some Muslim women to find suitable clothes to comfortably exercise and play sports in. To overcome this obstacle, women sometimes only play sports with, and in front of, other women—so that they can remove their hijab. This gender segregation is often exacerbated by the belief by some that women should not engage in heavy physical activity in front of men—as such bodily movements can be interpreted as sexual. Combined, these two aspects have made it difficult for women to play sports competitively, and in some Muslim nations, participation remains incredibly low.
Even if women manage to overcome these hurdles at home, they continue to face challenges internationally. Some sports events, such as the Olympics, banned headscarves because of safety concerns that it could strangle the individual wearing it, or cause others to slip over if it came off. It is only in very recent years that these regulations have begun to change.