Most Muslim women want to be healthy and look their best. But how does a stylish Muslim woman balance her love of exercise with being modest in her appearance.
Well, several companies sell workout wear online for those Muslims who want to be healthy. Primo Moda is one these companies. Zeena Altalib runs the online business for more than seven years now.
I felt there was a lack of clothing for women who want to dress modestly. I have casual wear and professional wear. But I also found that myself, my friends and my customers, we need swimwear and workout clothes; polo shirts and simple things we can wear using hijab for running, walking and going to our kids soccer games and so on.
Others echoed Altalibs sentiments that Muslim women needed modest options for healthy activity. Julia Shearson, the executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islam Relations, got her headscarf stuck in a bicycle wheel when she tried to ride to prayers.
Its already hard enough to exercise, Shearson told the New York Times in 2009. And if you look different its even harder.
Pakistani-American weightlifter Kulsoom Abdullah competes at the highest levels of the sport while remaining modest in various types of workout gear. However, for some, loose-fitting apparel not designed for workouts can make it difficult to walk or run. Altalib has designed a track suit with a long top that zips in two directions.
I have a full suit includes three pieces of very light material. The jacket is long and modest and smooth cut; not fitted. Its comfortable. I didnt want polyester. I also wanted women to be able to walk and run in big strides so the zipper goes both ways.
However, some Muslim women have been discouraged within their communities from exercising for several reasons. Some dont have access to female-only settings. The blog Aquila Style noted that some women felt that running and jumping in front of a mixed-gender audience was undignified.
Such movements expose too much of a womans body, Fatima Fakier wrote, summing up some of the interviews she conducted.
And then theres swimwear. While Muslim women are not worried about being bikini-ready, options for swimwear have been challenging. Some Muslim women swim in street clothes, but that can be cumbersome. There is the burqini, which resembles a one-piece wet suit. Many women think its too form-fitting.
Altalib offers swimwear that consists of an undershirt that is closely fitted with a dress over that.
The outer shell comes in a variety of styles. We try to achieve style and function and coverage.
Because modesty is a primary tenet of Muslim culture, Muslim women do not have some of the body-image issues some of their secular counterparts do.
Exercise and being fit has been hijacked by media that you do it to be attractive and to look sexy, Altalib said. There are a lot of other really good reasons why you should be working out. You want to be fit for health reasons; be stronger, have more energy. Youre not doing from the perspective of being attractive to the opposite sex. Maybe Im wearing loose clothes, but that doesnt mean I let go of my body and my health.
Farrah Khan, who blogs at Greater Lengths, has written about urging Muslimas to write to major workout wear companies such as Nike, Adidas and Lululemon to provide more modest options in their apparel lines.
Khan has run multiple marathons and does the punishing Crossfit workout. She has recommendations for boot-cut workout pants that can be paired with bra-top tunics. Add a sweat-wicking top to the tunic and youre all set to get fit and be covered.
However, if you follow in Khans footsteps, you would still need a hijab. Capsters, a company based in the Netherlands, has designed head coverings in moisture-wicking fabrics for a variety of sports. Designer Cindy van den Bremen wanted to give Muslim women an option that didnt require a pin or an undercovering so Muslim women and girls could play sports without worry. She had heard about a young Dutch girl who couldnt participate in gym class because her hijab was thought to be unsafe. So van den Bremen designed an alternative.
I thought Id stumbled upon a Dutch problem, van den Bremen told the New York Times in 2011, but, in the end, it turned out to be universal.
** Republished September 23rd, 2014 **
Many Muslim women want to be active. However they have been discouraged working out in the public due to the dearth of women-only gyms.