Doaa Elghobashy made headlines all around the world when she became the first woman to compete in a hijab in the beach volleyball tournament at the Rio Olympics with her partner Nada Meawad.
But away from the sand and the bikinis, lots of Muslim women are competing, and many of them are wearing the hijab. You just have to list all of the other sportswomen in the Egyptian team who are competing in their hijab: Hedaya Wahba, taekwondo; Seham El Sawalhy, taekwondo; Reem Mansour, archery; Noura Mohamed, fencing; Enas Mostafa, wrestling; Shaimaa Haridy, Weightlifting; Shimaa Hashad, shooting; Hadir Mekhimar, shooting; Fatma El Sharnouby, athletics; and Sara Ahmed, weightlifting.
Elghobashy may have hit the headlines but she joins a long list of African Muslim women who have competed at the top of their discipline
Each year more and more Muslim women are showing that sport is something everyone can do without changing their identity. Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first US athlete to wear a hijab at the Olympics. Saudi Arabia, who aren’t famous for championing women’s rights, are sending four women to Rio: Kariman Abuljadayel, the 100m runner; marathon runner Sarah Attar; judo sportswoman Joud Fahmy; and the fencer Lubna al-Omair.
Elghobashy may have hit the headlines but she joins a long list of African Muslim women who have competed at the top of their discipline, smashing barriers, challenging cultural taboos and breaking records. Here are six Africa Muslim women who have confounded stereotype and inspired millions of women and athletes all over the world – whatever their faith.
Yasmin Hassan Farah did Djibouti proud when she competed in the table tennis tournament. The then-19-year-old may have been beaten in the first round at the 2012 Olympics but given Djibouti has never won a medal, her participation was an achievement in itself. Watch her in action here.
El Moutawakel is the first female Muslim born on the continent of Africa to become an Olympic champion. She is also the first woman to ever win the 400 metres hurdles event which was introduced at the 1984 Summer Olympics. Since 2012 she has been vice-president of the International Olympics Committee.
Many spectators thought the race had already finished when an exhausted Zamzam Mohamed Farah finally crossed the 400m finish line in a leisurely 1.20.48 minutes but it was still a massive result for the 21-year-old athlete. She was one of only two Somalian athletes at the Games in 2012 and participated in a loosely fitting track outfit with a sports hijab.
This year 19-year-old Maryan Nuh Muse will be competing at the games. Good luck to her!
In 1992, middle-distance runner Hassiba Boulmerka became the first Algerian to win an Olympic title. She still holds the African record for that race, running 1500m in a breath-taking time of 3:55.30 minutes.
During her career, she was often criticised, and received death threats, for running in the standard running attire. She told the BBC that she had to fight prejudice every step of the way. ‘It was Friday prayers at our local mosque, and the imam said that I was not a Muslim, because I had run in shorts, shown my arms and my legs. He said I was anti-Muslim.’
When it comes to the hijab, Elghobashy is extremely practical. ‘I have worn the hijab for 10 years. It doesn’t keep me away from the things I love to do, and beach volleyball is one of them.’
She competed with partner Nada Meawad as they made history against German pair by becoming the first ever Egyptian team to compete in a beach volleyball tournament in the 2016 Olympics. They were eventually beaten by the Italian duo.
Habiba Ghribi was the first woman to win an Olympic gold medal for Tunisia. She won the 3000 metres steeplechase in London 2012. In September 2015 she ran a Tunisian national record, African record and the fourth fastest time ever of 9:05.36 at the Diamond League race in Brussels.
We can’t wait to see what she brings back from Rio.
At the end of the day, a hijab shouldn’t define a woman or an athlete. A piece of cloth shouldn’t be what we remember rather we should remember their performance and the Olympic spirit on display.