Muslim Inequality In Sports By: Patrick Reilly

Civil rights is defined as being a citizens personal liberties guaranteed by law. This means that a citizen of a country is able to do whatever they want as long as it is legal and the law protects them. Currently in the world, there are several civil rights issues occurring. The group that I will be focusing on is Muslims. Currently Muslims are facing a lot of civil rights issues all over the world. Today I will be focusing on Muslims and their civil rights issue with sports. In some sports like boxing and soccer Muslim women are unable to participate unless they take their hijab. A hijab is a religious piece of clothing that women are unable to take off in public unless they want to break their religion's rules. Many sports Organizations such as FIFA and the International Boxing Organization have prevented Muslim women from participating in a sport while also wearing a hijab. Amaiya Zafar is devout Muslim and is also an amateur boxer. Her religion causes her to cover almost all of her body except for her face. International boxing rules prevent her from wearing long clothing and a hijab while participating in the sport. This quote from the Washington Post explains Amaya's situation better. “And then there's the hijab. Removing it isn’t an option for the girl to whom faith matters deeply. International boxing rules stipulate that she cover neither her arms or her legs below the knees and Zafar would like to wear a long-sleeved Under Armor shirt and leggings beneath her tank top and shorts. ("Meet the 15-year-old Muslim Girl Fighting to Box While Wearing a Hijab." The Washington Post)” Amaiya has fought for her rights and has convinced the US boxing association to ask the national to change the rules for the world and if not the world then at least the US. Clearly, this is a civil rights issue if somebody cannot compete in a sport because of a religious piece of clothing. It is her right to compete in a sport and the law protects her religion so she should be able to participate in the sport even with the hijab. Also, FIFA has prevented Muslims from wearing a hijab while participating in a soccer game. “In April 2010, the Federation of International Football Association, FIFA, made public that ‘a player's equipment must not have any political, religious, or personal statements.’ This affected several Muslim women wearing hijab, or hair covering. For example, the Iranian delegation of young female soccer players did not participate in the 2010 Singapore Inaugural Youth Olympics. ("Sports | WISE Muslim Women." Sports | WISE Muslim Women)” Clearly this is a civil rights issue. If the law protects Muslims religion then they should be able to participate in any sport they want even if they have to wear a hijab. If they cannot participate then the law is not protecting them by fighting against association like FIFA and the international boxing association. Therefore, Muslims and their connection to sports is a civil rights issue.

Muslims inequality in sports is similar to the civil rights movement in the 1960’s. One way that it is similar is that Jackie Robinson was facing similar discrimination when he was trying to play baseball in the 1940’s. When Robinson finally made it too the pro leagues he played for the dodgers. In his career he countless letters saying racial slurs and threatening to kill him. He was also harassed and attacked in some incidents. One of his death letters reads, “Dear Mr. Ni**er, I hope you don’t break the Babe’s record. How do I tell my kids that a nigger did it. But it took, more at bats, live ball, and other ni**er tricks. I wish you the worst at anything you do ‘NI**ER!’ ("Besting Ruth, Beating Hate: How Hank Aaron Made Baseball History." CNN)” Clearly Mr. Robinson was facing some civil rights issues in this letter. If he was being hated and attacked for playing baseball then the law was not protecting his civil liberties. He should have been able to play baseball with no discrimination or threats. A similar event occurred to a Muslim. Muslim women who participate in sports also receive discrimination and threats like Jackie Robinson did. “For example, Algerian Hassiba Boulmerka, who won the 1500m in the 1992 Olympic games wearing shorts, was forced into exile following the Games because of death threats. There are few globally accessible publications written by women living in Muslim countries about sport so we often find misconceptions or stereotypes about Muslim women… ("Disability in the Global Sport Arena." Google Books)” Clearly, based on this evidence Jackie Robinson's experience with baseball during the civil rights movement was similar to Muslims experience with sports today. Both Muslims and Blacks were discriminated against because of their appearance. For Jackie Robinson it was his skin and for Muslims it is their clothing. While `Muslims may be able to take off their clothing physically, in reality they cannot because it is too important to their religion. Therefore, African Americans experience with sports is similar to Muslims experience with sports today.

Jackie Robinson

Muslim Children

While the civil rights movement was similar to Muslims and their connection to sports today it was also different. During the civil rights movement, many African Americans wanted to participate in sports. But white Americans had another idea for the blacks. They were against integrating the two races together to compete in sports. They only wanted white men competing against white men and black men competing against black men. “In the pre- World War II years, the black athlete was restricted from competition in all the professional sports. Only in the Olympics, because of its international nature, were black athletes allowed to compete unrestricted. ("Black Athletes in 20th Century United States." Black Athletes in 20th Century United States)” So you see, blacks wanted to compete and sports and everything about themselves allowed them too but whites did not like this, so they restricted it. For Muslims the situation is a little different. For Muslims, women in particular, they are not allowed to compete in certain sports not because someone is restricting them but because their religion is restricting them. “In general, Islam promotes good health and fitness and encourages both men and women to engage in physical activity to maintain healthy lifestyles. However, there are aspects of the religion which affect how sports can be practiced, for example; women following their faith cannot engage in mixed gender sports and the environment and dress code also requires consideration. ("Muslim Women and Sport." (2010): n. pag. Muslim Women in Sport)” So you see, Muslims women want to participate in sports they just cannot without disobeying their important faith. For blacks during the civil rights they were allowed to participate in sports and their religion allowed them too they just could not play with whites. Therefore, the civil rights movement was also different to Muslims and their connections to sports.

You can make a difference

While there may seem like not many ways to help Muslims get equality in sports there are ways. The more people that speak out about Muslims inequality then the more sports associations like FIFA and the national boxing association will listen. Don’t stay silent about the situation. Share the problem with your friends and convince them to spread the word and speak out as well. If more people are talking about the problem then the people get a bigger voice that sports associations will listen too. There are already authors and Muslims organizations trying to fight for their rights. They need your help. They need your voice to speak out for them. If FIFA won’t listen to them then they may listen to you. In the end, Muslim inequality will end. It is just a matter of how soon it will end.

Fight for their rights

Works Cited

Boren, Cindy. "Meet the 15-year-old Muslim Girl Fighting to Box While Wearing a Hijab." The Washington Post. WP Company, 14 Dec. 2015. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Christensen, Jen. "Besting Ruth, Beating Hate: How Hank Aaron Made Baseball History." CNN. Cable News Network, Feb. 2017. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Le Clair, Jill M. "Disability in the Global Sport Arena." Google Books. Google Books, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Lensay. "Sports | WISE Muslim Women." Sports | WISE Muslim Women. ASMA Society, 25 June 2011. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Walters, John. "Black Athletes in 20th Century United States." Black Athletes in 20th Century United States. American Studies Resources Centre, Aquinas Building, Aldham Robarts Library, Liverpool John Moores University, Maryland Street, Liverpool L1 9DE, United Kingdom, 1996. Web. 23 Mar. 2017.

Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation. "Muslim Women and Sport." (2010): n. pag. Muslim Women in Sport. Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation, Jan. 2010. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <>.


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