When Zahraa Hendricks took the decision to play Rubgy, she was aiming to hit many goals at once, including playing her favorite sport while tackling misconceptions about hijab.
“A lot of Muslim girls may feel that there isn’t a place for them in a contact sport,” she told IOL.co.za
Being the first Hijabi Rugby player in South Africa, when Hendricks ran onto the field, her pictures went viral on social media.
Many Muslim women choose to don hijab, which might paint them with the stigma of being oppressed.
But the case is much different in her team where her hijab is seen as part of identity.
“That’s not true,” Hendricks said. “I am free.”
“My team members come from different backgrounds, but we still consider each other equals,” Hendricks said.
“We work together, not against each other.”
By sporting hijab on the field, Hendricks breaks stereotypes and channels the embracing attitude of South Africa’s people.
Around the world, Muslim women are defying cultural barriers and stereotypes to compete and excel at the highest levels of sports — in football, fencing, weightlifting, basketball, ice hockey and more.
However, other sports continue to experience similar discrimination against hijabi women, like judo as Indonesia’s judoka Miftahul Jannah was banned last October from the Asian Para Games when she refused to remove her hijab.