x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

End jiu-jitsu hijab ban

Professional jiu-jitsu is behind the curve in banning women who wear the hijab to compete on the international stage.

Brazilian jiu-jitsu has rapidly become one of the toughest fighting arts in the world and a dominant discipline in all-styles martial contests. Can that level intensity and competition accommodate women wearing the hijab?

Well, it already does. Of the four Emirati women who competed in the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship last week, Shamsa Hassan won gold in her category; Eman Mohammed took bronze in hers. All four wore the hijab.

In modern-day sport, the ability of women to compete at this level - wearing the hijab or not - should not even be an issue. But the hijab is still banned in international competitions, meaning that while the UAE's female competitors can successfully compete, they can only do so at home.

The coach of the UAE's women's team, Caroline De Lazzer, has called for the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation to lift the ban. De Lazzer has some compelling arguments: female competitors already wear modified equipment for modesty; other international sports such as taekwondo permit the hijab; and Emirati competitors have already proven that it is not a problem.

We presume that it is just a matter of time before the ban is overturned. Just as the UAE has welcomed the world of jiu-jitsu, so too should that world welcome the UAE.