Think one athlete can’t make a difference? Think again. Meet Amna Al Haddad, the 27-year-old professional weightlifter from Dubai known as the athlete who inspired Nike to design a lightweight, breathable hijab, which is the head covering Muslim women wear to comply with their faith’s conservative dress code.
Next spring, the Nike Pro Hijab will hit the market at $35 a piece to offer Muslim women a great headscarf option while they train for big-time events.
Nike reached out to Al Haddad two years ago as she was training for the Rio Olympics because they wanted to sponsor her. They brought her to the “mothership” for a wide array of physical testing, but quickly learned they needed to tend to something simpler than pure strength and muscle contractions. She needed adequate headwear.
“They were studying me from the neck down, not from the neck up, But when we sat down to talk about the challenges of sportswear in my field, I brought up the idea of a sports hijab and how it could help Muslim athletes around the world.” (Fast Company)
So, Nike got to work on a performance hijab that would allow women to run, jump, and sweat without worrying about whether it would fall off.
Long before Al Haddad landed in Nike’s test lab, she was a journalist who put a healthy lifestyle on the backburner. She began to feel lethargic and depressed, so she took action by joining a gym that offered a CrossFit class. There, she found that lifting heavy was just the right medicine.
She describes weightlifting as a kind of meditation. Before each set, you must breathe and prepare your body for the exertion. The moment between lifting the weight and then holding the bar on your shoulder seems to totally disappear.
She was the only woman in the program, but as her strength grew, so did her confidence. She began speaking to other Muslim women, explaining how sports serve as a catalyst for good self-esteem.
Here’s a look at Al Haddad and her trailblazing course to “raising the bar” for Muslim women.
If you’d like to learn more about Al Haddad and Nike’s approach to spreading their wings into a conservative culture with the Nike Pro Hajib, read this piece by Fast Company.