Just do it, hijabi style: Nike unveils modest sportswear range

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Manal Rostom, runner, triathlete, mountain climber and sporting pioneer in the Middle East sports Nike’s hijab headgear.
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Updated 08 March 2017

Just do it, hijabi style: Nike unveils modest sportswear range

JEDDAH: The Nike Pro Hijab may have been more than a year in the making, but its impetus can be traced much further back to an ongoing cultural shift that has seen more Muslim women than ever embracing sport.
The movement first raised the international consciousness when a hijabi runner took the field at the 2012 London Olympics.
Nike on Tuesday launched their new Pro Hijab women-empowering initiative to further support Muslim women.
“Nike’s mission is to bring inspiration and innovation to all athletes,” said Megan Saalfeld, Global Nike spokeswoman. “And we’re thrilled that Nike can deliver a product innovation that female athletes in the region told us they wanted and needed.”
There is a growing demand for modest wear in the global market. Recently, Debenhams partnered with the world’s leading modest-wear clothing brand Aab for a new fashion range.
The New York fashion week 2017 witnessed a strong presence of modest wear as well. In just two seasons, Indonesian Muslim designer Anniesa Hasibuan has made the hijab her trademark — and dazzled New York fashion week’s catwalk by styling it with flowing, iridescent gowns fit.
Saalfeld, a 13-year Nike employee, told Arab News that Nike is inspired by the unique beauty and culture of the region, and have hosted several of their design team members in Dubai over the past year to learn more about the Middle East.
“Our designers met with people from all areas of the Dubai and GCC community,” Saalfeld said. “From athletes to local historians, writers to artists these sessions allow our teams to learn more about the region, what athletes here want and need to perform better, and allow them to take this inspiration back to Oregon,” she added.
Muslim consumer spending on clothing is estimated at $243 billion in 2015, according to the State of Global Islamic Economy’s report. The revenues from modest fashion clothing purchased by Muslim women have been estimated at $44 billion in 2015. Muslim spending on clothing is expected to reach $368 billion by 2021.
However, these figures were not the reason that prompted Nike’s initiative. “This wasn’t part of the design process,” Saalfeld said.
According to Saalfeld, Amna Al-Haddad, a weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates, visited the Nike World Headquarters in Oregon in January 2016. She met with designers and the team in Nike Sport Research Lab. When she told the team that she only had one hijab for competition and would like something that was more specific for sport, the team responded.
“We’re in a place where we can bring Nike’s first performance hijab to select athletes in this region, with plans to have it commercially available in early 2018 to athletes around the world,” Saalfeld added.
Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan Al-Saud, vice president of Women’s Affairs of the General Authority of Sports, told Arab News that she is pleased to see that a global company like Nike sees the value in supporting the women of the Muslim community as this shows that sports truly can be inclusive.
“This is a game changer that opens up so many doors for girls in the region and around the world,” Al-Saud said.
Manal Rostom, Nike Run Club Coach, told Arab News the Nike Pro Hijab empowers her.
“As an athlete, you look up to role models who are endorsed by Nike and other big sports brands, and to have one of those brands support me as an Arab hijabi athlete, it empowers me to reach even greater heights, to run longer distances, because I have that support on me and behind me,” Rostom said.
Rostom said the sports hijab is a gift for women struggling whether to embrace hijab or not.
“This is the perfect gift and it goes beyond being a new product that Nike is selling – it’s going to empower all women to embrace hijab and embrace who they are,” she said.
Zahra Lari, an Emirati ice-skater, told Arab News that people might think or tell hijabi athletes that they cannot do certain things, “but I’m going to show them you (athletes) absolutely can,” she said. “I am covered, I am Muslim, I am from a desert country and I’m doing a winter sport. It’s fine to do what you love. My family is behind me, my country is behind me — and there’s no reason why I can’t achieve what I want to achieve.”


Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

Updated 17 October 2019

Tolerance key to promoting inclusive society: EU envoy

  • Intellectuals, diplomats discuss challenge of blending cultures, faiths and values

RIYADH/JEDDAH: The European envoy to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday called for more tolerance and respect to help bring diverse societies closer together.

Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.

Organized by the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (KFCRIS), the event gathered together top intellectuals, diplomats and scholars to debate the issues of tolerance, forgiveness and acceptance of others.

Opening the lecture at the King Faisal Foundation building in Riyadh, d’Urso spoke about tolerance and how it was core to the transformation of societies, especially in Europe which had become more diverse.

“Today’s European society is a mixture of cultures, faiths, values, ideas, and habits. The challenge is to make sure our society is more inclusive, enhance mutual understanding and promote tolerance and respect,” the envoy said.

He pointed to the UN’s blossoming partnership with the KFCRIS and the importance of the lecture as key building blocks in the process of bridging cultural and religious gaps between societies.

“I think there are few more teams that are exchanging on the Saudi and European perspectives of religious tolerance and diversity. All of us know that the KFCRIS builds from the legacy of the late King Faisal and has been a pillar in promoting Islam,” d’Urso added.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ambassador Michele Cervone d’Urso, head of the EU delegation to the Kingdom, made his appeal as he welcomed attendees to a high-profile lecture to discuss Saudi and European perspectives on religious tolerance and diversity.
  • Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.
  • The director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

He noted that in Europe there were many people of faith that had respect for coexistence. 

Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL), told delegates that when he talked about tolerance in Islam, he also meant tolerance in Saudi Arabia as a state that applied and was governed by Shariah law.

He said a state that respected others, human existence and brotherhood could not exist “unless there is respect for diversity and differences as a universal norm that no one can collide.”

According to Al-Issa, the Charter of Madinah (regarded as the first Islamic state constitution) was considered one of the best achievements of civil legislation in human history. “This document was held by the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, with the Jews and represented binding legislation for Muslims toward religious minorities.”

The MWL chief noted that the document included the protection of civil and religious rights. “The document cannot be absorbed by extremism, it is clear. These rights and freedoms have been preserved by this legislation. And the Prophet Muhammad coexisted with everyone and understood these differences and diversity.”

In his speech, Al-Issa explained how the Qur’an gave Jews and Christians a special name to celebrate their religious origins where they were called “people of the book,” in reference to the Torah and the Gospel. The history of Christians and Jews was also never omitted.

Addressing the event, director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), Dr. Michael Privot, who converted to Islam 26 years ago, spoke about how the EU was characterized by increasing diversity, including religious and philosophical beliefs, even from the Muslim perspective.

“We encounter such a diversity of ways of being Muslim from a theoretical, cultural, philosophical, ideological point of view. Any single Muslim group or community is represented somewhere in Europe and this situation puts European Muslims in a very unique environment which is different from any other Islamic majority society in the world,” said Privot.

He pointed out that for the first time in history Muslim groups from Uzbekistan and Senegal were living together and trying to become a community in European societies.

“Societies, which have completely liberalized the market of religions, believe all faiths are accepted,” he added.

Earlier on Monday, an MWL forum in Makkah recommended that Islamic discourse should adhere to the principles of the Qur’an and Sunnah, the Muslims’ uppermost legislative sources, which are also known as the Two Divine Revelations.

The forum, titled “The Service of the Two Revelations,” called upon concerned authorities in the Muslim world to regulate Islamic fatwas in a way that prevented extremism and stopped producing any misguided explanations of the divinely revealed texts.

The participants also encouraged the use of modern technology, especially social media, to better serve the Qur’an and Sunnah to help link Muslim youths with the two revelations.

In addition, the gathering proposed establishing platforms for producing software and smart apps related to the Qur’an and Sunnah and the launch of an international service award under the umbrella of the MWL.

Al-Issa added that the MWL had staged a number of Qur’an memorization programs in 78 countries and said there were now 68 colleges and institutes where 7,500 students were studying the Qur’an.

“Some 61,275 Qur’an readers have graduated from these institutes, with 5,055 reciters having obtained authentic reading certificates. The IOQAS (International Organization of Qitab and Sunnah) has also carried out 193 training courses and provided nearly 3,000 scholarships,” he said.