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Innovation Lost in Translation, Nike Hijabs Gets Both Praise and a Lashing

When Nike tried their hand at innovating the traditional garment they probably didn’t expect people to think of it as condoning oppression of women’s freedom.

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Photo Credit : news.com.au/,

To the galleries of eagerly awaiting people did Nike unveil the most curious piece of clothing. Earlier in March, the largest sportswear manufacturer in the world launched the Nike Hijab.

You read that right. Nike, the brand we saw Michael Jordan dribble basketballs in is now doing hi-tech clothing for designed specifically for female Muslim athletes.

The Nike hijab has been in the works for some time now and was designed in tandem with feedback from professional Muslim athletes. The hijab is designed to stay in place and to still be comfortable for a woman wearing it while engaging in any athletic activity.

Nike probably expected the new product to just turn the praise-o-meter to a turbo level. The multinational company has revenue over 30 billion dollars and reported that for the last quarter of 2016 profits grew further. What better way to keep demand up by catering to more demographics and that too with a product that catches on some strong cultural strings.

“The Nike Pro Hijab has been a year in the making, but its impetus can be traced much further back to Nike’s founding mission, to serve athletes, with the signature addendum: If you have a body, you’re an athlete,” the company said in a statement.

Nike was wrong to expect just positive feedback for its innovative spin. The feedback was mixed at best. Conditioned by the long standing western conception that traditional Muslim wear like burqa and hijabs symbolise oppression of women in patriarchal Muslim societies, users were vocal albeit on social media, saying they do not approve of Nike’s hijab.

According to an Australian media report, the reaction was outrage. Australia was where the burqini, swimwear in line with Muslim teachings, was invented.

Some comments quoted were,

“Supporting the Muslim Hijab is supporting the enslavement of women and the murder of gays. #NikeHijab”

This “normalises the oppression of women.” Another comment alleged Nike of “cashing in on subjugation and domination”.

However, praise for the wear came from the very athletes who were the Nike hijab’s muses. Sarah Attar is a Saudi Arabian Olympic runner and Amna Al Haddad is Rio Olympics weight lifter from the UAE.

Al Haddad was reported as saying on Instagram, “More women have expressed a need for it and more professional athletes have fought for rights to compete with a headscarf, and have an equal playing field.”

She had further said, “They know that we are here to stay and decided to join the party and create another ‘competitive’ sport hijab in the market, which by the way, did exist in the market for few years now.

I support Muslim women with or without hijab, and how they dress is their choice. And with the Nike sports hijab, it surely will encourage a new generation of athletes to pursue sports professionally.”


Tags assigned to this article:
innovation Nike Hijab Pro

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