Solving FIFA’s Headscarf Problem

Elham Seyed Javad's design for an athletic headcovering.

Fast Company‘s has a new riff on the question of FIFA’s headscarf ban: the question of whether designer Elham Seyed Javad’s “sports hijab,” which she’s submitted to the soccer body for consideration, might provide a solution that’s both acceptable to sports federations and to observant Muslim women. A head covering that tucks into a t-shirt seems like it would solve the problem of access to a player’s airway in an emergency and reduce any sort of choking hazard.

At the end of the day, it seems like playing covered would be a real competitive disadvantage, particularly in an outdoor, non-stop sport like soccer where it seems like a headscarf would make you get overheated that much faster. But if women want to accept that disadvantage and still compete (and obviously, choice is mitigated in countries like Iran) and they can do so safely, it seems that they ought to be able to make those calculations for themselves. And if good design can help minimize that problem, reconciling religious observance and participation in the wider world, that seems like a preferable solution to diving into a highly political debate in a way that gives Iran an opportunity to position itself as a champion of women’s rights. As many readers and friends have pointed out here, the problem is less that FIFA made this one decision to ban headscarves than that it’s a clumsily managed organization.