Islam’s View on Physical Activity and Sport: Egyptian Women Interpreting Islam

Kristin Walseth: kristin.walseth@nih.no
Kari Fasting: The Norwegian University of Sport and Physical Education, Norway.

The questions asked in this study were: what kind of views do Egyptian women have on the relationship between Islam and physical activity/sport, and what consequences do different interpretations of Islam have for Egyptian women’s involvement in physical activity and sport? The data were gathered during a four-month field-study in Egypt, and consist of 27 qualitative interviews in addition to many hours of field-observation. The results show that the women in the study agreed that Islam encourages sport participation for women. The women who most strongly emphasized the fact that they had to participate in some sporting activities were supporters of the fundamentalistic interpretation of Islam. Some Muslim women therefore find a non-secular relationship between sport and religion. The study further revealed that the different interpretations of Islam had consequences for the informants’ participation in sport. These were related to the use of the veil, gender segregation, the concept of ‘excitement’ (non-sexual movements) and the power relationship between women and men. Most of these barriers seem to be products of Muslim society’s view of women and their sexuality. The data further support the opinion that power strategies get internalized into people’s bodily practice.