Last month, Nike announced its Nike Pro Hijab, a piece of performance wear that represents a major statement for the athletics brand. While many people, athletes and non-athletes included, saw that as a positive step, others criticised the sportswear giant for what they claimed was the normalisation of oppression. Now, Amna Al Haddad, one of the athletes who helped develop the Nike Pro Hijab, has spoken out to defend it against naysayers.
Yahoo reports that Al Haddad, a weightlifter from the U.A.E., posted an open letter to Facebook explaining why the Nike Pro Hijab is so important to her as a woman and a Muslim. She notes that in the past, her hijab had hindered her performance and wasn't breathable. She says that Muslim women all over the world shared the same issues and that the "noise" coming from them was what prompted Nike to create something that wouldn't interfere with training and performance.
"From my perspective as a former athlete who competed in hijab, in the past, the big brands didn’t see the need or market for it as it was not 'popular' and it was unheard of to see women train, exercise, and compete in hijab," she wrote. "As Muslim women, we have been vocal in the media about it — personally since 2011 — the big guys can’t help but notice us 'the underdogs' and our impact in the sports industry and world."
Al Haddad faces critics head-on, saying that if Muslim women weren't voicing their own concerns, huge sportswear companies wouldn't feel compelled to cater to them. That's not oppression, she insists. It's the opposite. Nike created the Pro Hijab to enhance, not impede.
"I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike Sports Hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally, and without us athletes who fought for this right and made it happen, Nike wouldn’t ‘just do it.'"
Read Al Haddad's entire letter, below.