‘I’m not a model. I’m an athlete and people should focus more on my athleticism rather than my clothes’

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND – JUNE 20: Ons Jabeur of Tunisia celebrates victory over Daria Kasatkina of Russia during the final of the Viking Classic Birmingham at Edgbaston Priory Club on June 20, 2021 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

Don’t be surprised if we hear more about Muslim women in sports this year.

Tunisian tennis star Ons Jabeur is the No. 2 seed at the first grand slam of the 2023 tennis season – the Australian Open, which got underway on Monday.

Jabeur turned heads in 2022 with thrilling performances at Wimbledon and the US Open, and she’s not the only Muslim woman athlete in the spotlight.

Doaa Elghobashy has been training to help Egypt qualify for the 2024 Paris Games in beach volleyball. She and her teammate were the first Egyptian women to compete in Beach volleyball at the Olympics in 2016.

Meanwhile, three-time NCAA All American and Olympic bronze medalist in fencing, Ibtihaj Muhammad aims to empower women and girls through sports, her clothing line and books. And three-time Egyptian Olympian, Aya Medany is working to increase gender equality in sport.

These Muslim women have made history in their respective competitions and opened doors for a new generation of athletes.

Despite their accomplishments and years of progress making sport more inclusive of Muslim women and girls, there are still hurdles to clear.

This is a look at the roads to success for Jabeur, Elghobashy, Medany and Muhammad and how changing rules have impacted their faith and participation in sport.

What a difference a rule makes

According to the Pew Research Center, there were nearly two billion Muslims around the globe in 2019.

In recent years, Muslim women and girls have competed in a range of sports on the world stage – from fencing to figure skating.

But even with the rise of media and social media coverage, an exact number of Muslim women athletes is difficult to pinpoint in part because some don’t vocalize their beliefs or wear clothing indicative of their faith.


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