FIFA considering sports hijab created by Montreal woman

The Globe and Mail – May 2, 2012

The idea for Montrealer Elham Seyed Javad’s sports hijab was born during the acrimony of Quebec’s reasonable accommodation debate. Now, it could become the debate’s global contribution to soccer.

The Montrealer’s prototype has already picked up praise, raising the possibility the Canadian-made creation could ease the way for Muslim women to participate in the world’s most popular sport.

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan, elected a vice-president at FIFA last year, began spearheading a campaign to reverse the organization’s 2007 ban on the headscarf, which it considers a safety concern during games. When she heard about it, Ms. Seyed Javad contacted the Jordanian royal. FIFA is seeking a headscarf that opens easily if it’s pulled, to prevent choking. A design presented to FIFA by a Dutch company uses Velcro to fasten the hijab; Ms. Seyed Javad’s design, the ResportOn Pro Release, uses lightweight magnets. If approved, the change would impact the lives of thousands of Muslim women, from elite national players to girls in community leagues in Canada and elsewhere.

Montreal designer creates sleek sports hijab

Industrial designer Elham Seyed Javad has taken up the cause begun in 2007 when a Muslim girl was barred from a soccer match for wearing a hijab. Then, five Muslim girls were ejected from a tae kwon do tournament for the same reason. “I was so distressed when I learned about it,” Seyed Javad said. “Your beliefs shouldn’t prevent you from playing sports.” So, the 26-year-old University of Montreal graduate designed a sleek sports hijab, which fits tightly around the head and is part of a sports shirt underneath.

Seyed Javad, who is Muslim but doesn’t wear a hijab herself, emphasizes that her “Resport” is more than a hijab. It can be used by anyone, male or female, who needs to keep their hair in check during their activities. They were tested by some Muslim athletes at a martial arts tournament last weekend and passed with flying colours, Seyed Javad said. The problem of headscarves in sports is that sometimes the ends come untucked, even though athletes try to pin them inside a shirt.