In and out: Exploring inclusion and alienation within the sport experiences of hijabi athletes in Ontario


Sport has traditionally been used as a tool to foster inclusion (or integration) among immigrant youth and ethnic minority groups in Europe and North America (Spaaij, 2015; Walseth, 2008). However, Western sport environments may create challenges for young Muslim women who choose to participate while still adhering to their Islamic values and principles. In this way, participation in sport may instead serve to exclude young Muslim women when cultural and religious needs are not met. The purpose of this research study was to explore how young Muslim women who wear the hijab may experience inclusion or alienation due to their involvement in sport in Canada. Data collection with seven Hijabi athletes consisted of semi-structured interviews as well as audio-diaries that were recorded longitudinally over a one-month period. A thematic content analysis was conducted to examine identity negotiation, social interactions with non-Muslim teammates and coaches, as well as how how broader discourses on Islam influence the sport experiences of young Muslim women. The participants of this study often perceived they were under surveillance due to the hypervisibility of the Hijab in Western sport spaces. This often led participants to modify their behaviour, self-monitor and feel "out of place" in sport, particularly if they had Islamophobic interactions with teammates and coaches. For other participants, sport was a vehicle which allowed them to connect with members of their Muslim community. This research highlights the heterogeneity of Muslim women in Canada and how they may navigate sporting experiences.