On March 22, Homa Hoodfar, a former Professor of Anthropology at Concordia, celebrated the long-overdue launch of her book, Women’s Sport as Politics in Muslim Contexts. Featuring case studies that examine the politics of sports from Saudi Arabia to Senegal and to North America, the book explores the role of sports in women’s struggle to achieve equality. According to its cover, Women’s Sports “provides an […] analysis of the bravery and creativity exhibited by Muslim women in the realm of sports, which has emerged as a major realm of contestation between proponents of women’s rights and political Islamist forces in Muslim contexts.”
A collection of essays edited and selected by Hoodfar, the book was initially released in the U.K. in December 2015, but the April 2016 launch in Canada was postponed due to Hoodfar’s incarceration in Iran. In early 2016, Hoodfar was held for 112 days in Tehran’s Evin prison on reported charges of “dabbling in feminism.” Thanks to international mobilization, she was released and returned to Montreal in September 2016.
At the launch, Hoodfar discussed the participation and inclusion of Muslim women in sports by giving the example of the prevalence of hijab restrictions in many sport federations, such as the IOC or FIFA. The act of playing sports then, either veiled or not, becomes a quietly political act for Muslim women. “Quiet politics” are something that Hoodfar expressed deeper appreciation for now, citing her experience of incarceration as proof that “the cost of actively being politicized is quite high.” Moreover, Hoodfar said that Muslim women are using sports to demand recognition from the society and the state. She gave an example: after the 2016 Olympics, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, was obligated to congratulate Kimia Alizadeh, female Taekwondo medalist, alongside her male colleagues.
At the launch, Hoodfar spoke for 30 minutes before taking questions from a small but fascinated crowd in Concordia’s J.W. McConnell Library Building.
The book is available for free as on online e-book here.