British Muslim Women in Sport – A Rise in Participation Since London’s Olympic Games
According to Sport England’s recent Active People Survey, women’s involvement in sport has increased by 13.8%. While Caucasian women are the majority of participants, involvement among ‘BME’ (Black and Minority Ethnic) women is currently at an all time high, with Muslim women’s numbers climbing thanks to global and local initiatives.
Last year’s Olympic Games in London made history as each country had both men and women on their teams, with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei including women in events for the first time. This, combined with FIFA’s recent overturn of the headscarf ban and films like Saudi Arabia’s first female director Haifaa al-Mansour’s Wadjda depicting a young girl determined to ride a bicycle despite the public’s resistance, has prompted Muslim women around the world to embrace sport, albeit cautiously.
In Britain, national and local governing bodies are investing in programmes to further increase minority involvement in sport. England’s national sporting body, Sport England, has helped provide funding to national organisations like Sporting Equals and Street Games to more local groups such as Access Sport within London and Sport For Women within London’s borough of Tower Hamlets. Reports are showing these actions are working by promoting health and fitness within environments some Muslim women deem necessary in order to freely participate.
Athlete Ruqsana Begum, Britain’s Muay Thai Champion, makes the example not all Muslim women mandate requirements such as full body covering and women’s only classes. However, targeting specific communities such as Tower Hamlets and Newham, the UK’s two highest Muslim populated areas, requires restrictions in order to make these classes effectively engaging for women of all beliefs and ethnicities.
This report will look at some of the global and local efforts that are available, and how they are enabling Muslim women in Britain to get more active in terms of health and community engagement.