Islam, Women and Sport article named as one of the top LSE reads of 2023

Dr Haifaa Jawad's article was the LSE's number one most read piece in 2023 attracting new readers in the summer due to the Women's World Cup.

Iranian girls football team at Youth Olympic Games.

Iranian girls football team at Youth Olympic Games.

The piece named 'Islam, Women and Sport: The case of the Visible Muslim women' delves into the current motivations and challenges for Muslim women in sport.

Dr Jawad explains that the damaging stereotypes of Islam perpetuated by western media can make it hard for Islamic women who bear the impact of the Islamophobia the more visible they become. As for Islamic women and sporting activities, the Qur'an nor the Hadith does not state that Islamic women should not take part in sporting activities. On the contrary, they support equality for women attaining and maintaining physical capability.

Nouhaila Benzina made history last year by becoming the first player to wear a hijab on the Women's World Cup field in 2023. A prime example of a woman from a different faith becoming more visible taking to the field to play sport. 

I am delighted to announce that for the second year in a row my short article on “Islam, Women and Sport” which was published by the LSE Religion and Global Society in 2022 has again reached top blogs in 2023. Visibility of Muslim women in sport is an evergreen topic that clearly people have a growing interest in as well as Women's football!

Dr Haifaa Jawad - Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham.

The issue of modesty can be a problem for visible women as women's bodies and public visibility are often a key concern in Islamic culture says Dr Haifaa Jawad. Pulling in the question of the Hijab and the issue of sex segregation. Bringing additional challenges to sporting cultures in which, through policy or regulation, the wearing of hijab is not allowed, for example in some secular states and some international sports governing bodies.

She goes on to say that sex segregation can be a key issue for visible Muslim women in sport. Unfortunately there is a lack of 'safe' environments for those women who prefer sex segregated spaces to compete in. The international 'Accept and Respect' declaration recommended that people working in the sport and education systems accept and respect the diverse ways in which Muslim women and girls practice their religion and participate in sport and physical activity. Adopting new regulations would lead to more opportunities for women and make sporting culture more inclusive.  

Women's voices and choices should be heard and provision made accordingly, to incorporate faith-based needs that will enhance participation. Dr Jawad concludes with stressing the importance of education and training for teachers, coaches, sport administrators, and organisers (both in Muslim and non-Muslim settings) to incorporate greater awareness of faith-based principles. Encouragement is also needed for the training and retention of interested Muslim women as role models who could influence future generations. 

Dr Haifaa Jawad, is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Birmingham in the Department of Theology and Religion. Her research explores the socio-political study of Islam, Modern and Contemporary Islamic thought, Women in Islam, inter-religious relations, Middle East history and politics.

Since February 2023, she has been part of a research project led by Dr. Sandra Iman Pertek  on the “Protecting Displaced Women and Girls in the Muslim World” Initiative. In December, 2023, Dr Haifaa Jawad was invited to a seminar on  Islamic Feminism– philosophical Perspectives, University of Göttingen and University of Freiburg, Germany. Her presentation dealt with the methodology and historical development and its future prospect. Towards the end of October last year, Jawad was invited by the department of Sociology, University of San Francisco, to a round table discussion on the experiences of Muslim women in sport and the role of Islam in their sporting lives.

Read the original LSE article here.