In Box

A Sporting Chance

For many, sport is a near religion. Why, then, is there no room for religion in sport? Some schools in European countries, including the Netherlands, have banned headscarves in physical education classes. Many Muslim girls simply no longer attend class, much to the ire of school officials. But Dutch designer Cindy van den Bremen has ...

For many, sport is a near religion. Why, then, is there no room for religion in sport? Some schools in European countries, including the Netherlands, have banned headscarves in physical education classes. Many Muslim girls simply no longer attend class, much to the ire of school officials. But Dutch designer Cindy van den Bremen has come up with a compromise: headscarves specifically designed for sports. Van den Bremen concocted the idea as a graduate design student in 1999, and she began selling her sporty scarves in 2001, after consulting with several Muslim women and an imam.

At www.capsters.com, van den Bremen offers form-fitting, stretchable headscarves for tennis, aerobics, skating, and other outdoor activities for around $25, and she is launching a new line this winter with daily fashions in mind. Because one of the primary reasons cited in the Dutch bans is that veils and headscarves are unsafe for sports activity, van den Bremen wanted to enable Muslim women to fulfill their religious requirements while addressing schools’ and government’s safety concerns. "The feedback has been positive," she says. "I just received an e-mail from a woman in New York who said she liked my designs because they allow her to integrate while keeping her own values and norms."

Although her designs are now only available through the Internet, van den Bremen hopes to mass market them soon. If such accessories catch on, they could do more for Muslim integration in Western schools than years of state-mandated cultural awareness programs. As Allyce Najimy, senior associate director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern University, says, "It’s much harder to hate people with whom you share a common goal, such as a sport."

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