The Game Changers

16 January 2018

Researcher Nida Ahmad.

The digital lives of Muslim sportswomen.

Muslim women are increasingly pushing the boundaries of sporting achievement, and using social media to tear down stereotypes as they do it.

One University of Waikato researcher is looking at the movement and how Muslim sportswomen are helping to make a cultural shift. Nida Ahmad’s focus is on recreating identities and challenging stereotypes in digital spaces.

Over eight months the doctoral student has observed the social media accounts of 26 Muslim women from different countries and sporting backgrounds, later interviewing most of them for more in-depth analysis. She is now completing the project, and has some clear thoughts on key influences and trends.

Nida says representation is often skewed in mainstream media, and usually hones in on the hijab because it is visible and obvious. Instead, her participants are using digital media to represent themselves around their sport, and capture the real complexity and diversity of their lives.

From mountain climbing, to running and Jiu Jitsu, the barriers to different sports are coming down. In some parts of the world, Nida says there has been a lack of access to sports for Muslim women, and it is not just about religious practices, but is more complex, with issues such as gender, race, class, political, social, cultural and historical structures playing a big role.  She says women are (re)creating public spaces to participate in sports and physical activity, and bringing other women and their families along with them. These spaces also include online spaces such as digital media (social media). which is what her research examines.

Nida Ahmad is halfway through her PhD. She  is also on the steering committee of the newly formed “Muslim Woman in Sport Network". The network is comprised of Muslim women from around the world who are actively involved in various disciplines and are advancing the status and recognition of the role that Muslim women play in sport.

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