Challenging the Stereotype with Hijab

Photo: Homa Hosseini (flag-bearer) leads her country's team during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Photo sourced: Reuter/David Gray.
The hijab has become a strong element in showcasing one's culture, much to the chagrin of those who have made a profession vilifying it and linking such practice with backwardness of a society, repression of its women, being uneducated and beholden to traditions.Modern Muslim women have incorporated the practice of hijab into their uniforms and daily wears. These days, the hijab (and the fashion trends associated with it) have become a symbol of liberation for many Muslim women, young and old. What is most surprising is that majority of them are wearing it out of their own personal conviction and volition not simply because it was imposed by society.Interestingly, the wearing of the hijab has not spared even the sports field. In the "parade of nations" during the opening program, the Olympic games saw a sizable sprinkling of veiled athletes. Roqaya al-Ghasara (Bahrain) and Homa Hosseini (Iran) even have the honor of carrying their respective country's flag. Egyptian female athletes are a dozen strong, Homa is joined by two more female athletes, and there’s one Afghan and another Yemeni.At the Olympics, these hijab-clad athletes hope to help quash the perception among many in the West that the veil is akin to repression; and overcome stereotypes and prejudices about women athletes right in their own backyard.Indeed, there are more than a hundred sports to choose from that do not require unveiling.Al-Ghasara remarks, “the hijab has never been a problem to me. In Bahrain you grow up with it. There are more owmen in sport all the time from countries like qatar and kuwait. You choose to wear the hijab or not.”Shaimma El Gammal (Fencing) capture the pride of wearing a hijab and competing in sports simultaneously, “when I fence I’m proud that I’m a Muslim. It’s very symbolic for women in my country.”While their number is not representative of the total female population, the growing number of women in sports is a beginning sign of tolerance and acceptance in the Muslim World.To me this represents a growing phenomenon reflective of Ijtihad in the realm of contemporary living - How do we practice the essential teachings of Islam based on 21st century paradigm and pragmatism. What is heartening to note is that this growing phenomenon is primaily driven by Muslim women themselves.
Source: http://contemporarymoro.blogspot.com/2008/11/photo-homa-hosseini-flag-bearer-leads.html