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Reviewed by:
  • Muslim Women and Sport
  • Hanna Buchler Eden and Joshua Leeger
Benn, Tansin, Gertrud Pfister, and Haifaa Jawad, eds. Muslim Women and Sport. International Studies in Physical Education and Youth Sport Series. Abingdon<,U.K.: Routledge, 2011. Pp. xviii+270. Illustrations. $141.23.

The book Muslim Women and Sport, by Tansin Benn, Gertrud Pfister, and Haifaa Jawad, pulls together articles and case studies from twenty-three authors into one volume covering a wide-ranging array of topics relevant to Muslim women’s participation in sport and physical activity. The first of its kind, this book presents Muslim and non-Muslim authors’ views of Muslim tradition, Islamic culture, and women’s experiences both within Muslim and non-Muslim nations from across the Middle East, Africa, and Europe.

The book is divided into four sections, namely: Underlying Concepts, National Perspectives, Case Studies, and Narratives. In the part “Underlying Concepts,” the editors sample papers covering the issue of the importance of physical activity for Muslim women and their participation in sport and physical activity. The chapter “National Perspectives” offers unique views into Muslim women’s participation in sport and physical activity in Bahrain, Germany, Iran, Oman, Syria, and Turkey. The third section, “Case Studies,” provides further insight into differences in participation for Muslim women in various countries and activity contexts. Palestine, South Africa, elite sport in Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates are highlighted. The fourth and last part, “Narratives,” offers tangible direct quotes from Muslim women in their respective homelands.

According to Benn, Pfister, and Jawad the state of Muslim society and Islamic practice is diverse. The term “Muslim” is used rather than “Islamic” to highlight the difference [End Page 163] between “Islam” as a political ideology and the followers of the Islamic faith. This word choice is meant to include all followers of the Islamic religious faith, rather than focusing on those who subscribe to potentially political aspects of Islamic organization. For the non-Muslim, this distinction might be confusing, hence an “Accept and Respect” Declaration ( is provided, created with and also for Muslim women in order to clarify the difference between Islam, the religion, and cultural overlays in correlation to physical activity. Due to the different social, political, and economic situations and diversities within “Islam” this might seem overly general. Yet, this declaration regarding Muslim women and sport seems, for the purpose of clarifying in this particular book, necessary and instructive.

The representation of the nature of physical activity participation and the status of women in many different nations highlights the diverse experience of Muslim women globally. Some nations are very egalitarian, while others are strictly patriarchal. The end reading concludes that Muslim women are marginalized in sports both within most Islamic nations, and in non-Islamic nations. It is stated that this marginalization in sports within some Islamic nations appears to be among others a product of a male-dominated social order since “nothing in Islam precludes participation in physical activity.” While claims are made that some “interpretations” regarding women and physical activity are spurious, such arguments are difficult for the non-specialist reader to determine. To increase sport opportunities for Muslim women and girls, recommendations and guidelines for a faith-based approach in an Islamically appropriate environment are given. On the other hand, some stereotypes are confronted, positive experiences such as amazing support from families are highlighted and deep self determination of women is shown.

Muslim Women and Sport fills a gap in the research literature, providing a muchneeded window into the state of physical activity participation for modern Muslim women in diverse cultural contexts from elite sport to recreational physical activity as well as physical education for Muslim girls. In so doing, it also provides the reader with a general overview and an appreciation of the diversity of Islamic belief and practice itself and for more inclusive physical activity laws and regulations for Muslim women both in Islamic nations and abroad. [End Page 164]

Hanna Buchler Eden
The British University in Dubai
Joshua Leeger
San Francisco State University


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pp. 163-164
Launched on MUSE
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