We all know how important exercise is to our health, both mental and physical. And of course, cultivating enjoyment in sports at an early age is a major step on the path to lifelong fitness. Schools have mandatory gym classes, but many children choose to take part in team or individual sports in the evening or on weekends, too.
One group that is underrepresented in sports, however, is Muslim girls. They are half as likely to be involved in sports as other girls their age, and one reason for that is the clothing they wear for religious and cultural reasons.
The founders of Asiya Activewear saw an opportunity to change that. “Our first line of products—sports hijabs—will enable Muslim girls and women to be physically active and participate in sports while upholding their religious and cultural beliefs,” they explain.
They point to a survey that found that a whopping 94 percent of women executives played organized sports, and most of those women credited sport for helping them build determination, excel at teamwork and develop a strong work ethic.
Asiya has launched with three styles, which come in black, white, gray and navy: The Asiya Lite and Sport are designed for sports practice or games. They fit snugly at the neck and can be tucked inside a team uniform so that there’s no danger of other players grabbing it or the wearer getting caught on something. Asiya Fit is perfect for working out, and it adds extra coverage at the front.
“Aren’t the hijabs hot to wear while you’re playing sports?” you ask. Well, that was certainly a major concern for the designers. They addressed that by developing a unique sweat-wicking and breathable soft mesh they call Asiya Cool fabric technology, which helps its wearers stay cool and comfortable when they work out or play team sports.
The sports hijabs are stretchy and designed to be one-size-fits-all. There’s no need to use pins or clips to keep them in place, even while exercising, as they have a hidden, unique head-band inside that holds the hijab tight to the base of the neck.
Fatimah Hussein came up with the idea for Asiya eight years ago when she founded a nonprofit program called G.I.R.L.S. (Girls Initiative in Recreation and Leisurely Sports) in Minneapolis. She set up girls-only gym nights several nights a week, and in time she noticed that the young women were gaining self-confidence and discovering a love of sports. After a while, Hussein, a licensed graduate social worker, realized the girls both needed and wanted athletic uniforms and sports clothing so they could compete in public at the same time as adhering to their religious and cultural beliefs.
Flash forward, and several prototypes later, Hussein and her Asiya cofounder, Jamie Glover, an experienced marketing whiz, were ready to take the company and the message beyond Minneapolis.
Now Asiya is fully funded by a successful crowd-sourcing campaign, and you can preorder a hijab or sponsor an athlete. “If you don’t wear a hijab, you can still support this effort to empower more young women to play (and win),” say team Asiya.