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How Asma Elbadawi Is Changing The Game For Muslim Women In Sport

By 1 March, 2019 No Comments

“When I think about it, [when I was younger] I had assumed that because I hadn’t seen sportswomen wearing hijabs on TV that there was something against it in our religion,” Asma Elbadawi, the UK-born polymath explains. “I had assumed that women were expected to retain their modesty and playing sport didn’t align with that.” Ten years on, not only is Asma now an advocate for sport for young Muslim girls, she successfully urged the international basketball association, FIBA, to eradicate the ban on hijabs and religious headwear in the professional sport. We’re taking notes…

Talking about the challenges of growing up as a Muslim girl in society and sport, the parallels between her own life and Tanzanian girls became clear, resulting in her motivations to tackle the hijab ban in basketball.

So where did it all begin? Apparently change does not actually start at home, as Asma undertook a placement 7,000 miles away from Bradford in Tanzania which prompted the whole dialogue in the first place. Talking about the challenges of growing up as a Muslim girl in society and sport, the parallels between her own life and Tanzanian girls became clear, resulting in her motivations to tackle the hijab ban in basketball.

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I learned so much about myself through this game. I shed alot of tears and had a lot of internal battles. I tried to mimic players that where taller and bigger than me only to fail. It took me so long to find my strengths and then when I discovered them I held back, I didn't want to try new tricks in front of a crowed and miss then get laughed at. But something in me kept telling me to keep my head up, keep playing. Lord knows how grateful I am for never giving up. Alhamdullah after many years I feel like I am the player I was always too scared to be. I always played as Asma the good player but could be better but In my last few games I met Asma the feirce, strong player I Imagined over and over again in my head the one I never let anyone see. There are no words to discribe the internal joy of breaking my own personal best score over my last games. So if your doing something you love that keeps challenging you, let me tell you this. Keep going your time will come soon. _____________________________________ 📸 @karen_mandau #muslim #women #femalesinsport #Alwaysballing #Basketballneverstops #Ballislife #Believeinyourself #Bradford #UnitedKingdom #England #people #outdoors #leisure #basketball #ball #competition #wear #sport #mcm #fit #fitfam #fitspo #fitness #summer #portrait #athlete #fun #sky #sunset

A post shared by Asma Elbadawi 🇸🇩🇬🇧 (@asmaelbadawi) on


Following FIFA lifting the ban on head covers in football in 2014, and the appearance at Rio of Ibtihaj Muhammad, America’s first Olympian to compete in a hijab, it’s only natural Asma thought FIBA should follow suit.

As she continues to be a pillar of strength for young Muslim girls in sport as a coach, mentor and adviser, Asma explains that “the challenge now will be in re-educating our community about the benefits of sport and what it means for a girl to be able to take part.”


Let’s not forget that in the midst of all this commotion, she even managed to win BBC Radio 1Xtra’s ‘Words First’ 2015 Competition.

Want to take a leaf from Asma’s book? She’ll be live 4 – 6 May on Muslim Women in Sport Network’s Innovators in Sport Summit.

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