Brook M. brought our attention to Al Jazeera’s English-language coverage of Arab women athletes training for the 2008 Olympics. They include a Moroccan runner, Israeli Arab boxers, a Qatar race-car driver, and Egyptian soccer players. Among other topics, the segments address opposition the women have faced being female Arab Muslims in sports, especially concerning their clothing. The first segment is about 11 minutes long; the second one is about 12 and a half.

One thing I like about these videos is they show the diversity of Arab Muslim women, a group often depicted as a homogeneous, passive, subordinate group all wearing veils. Some of the women in the clips do not cover their hair while some wear hijab. Among those who wear hijab, some cover every bit of their hair, others do not; some head scarves are lace and fairly transparent, while others are dark and solid. The women talk about how they feel about mixing religion and sports and being female athletes, and again, they differ in their perspectives.

While the sports element is interesting, seeing the diversity among Arab women, as well as Arab women actively discussing religion and resisting gender roles, may be very useful for students who usually encounter portrayals of Arab women as completely oppressed victims of a sexist culture/religion, so I can imagine using it in classes that aren’t about sports.

Thanks, Brook M.!

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