THE World Karate Federation (WKF) has finally brought its rule on Hijab to Nigeria.
In a prominent event which took place recently in Lagos, many Karatekas, teenagers mostly, on head to neck hijab were automatically disqualified.
The Zainab Saleh International Female Open Karate Championship is a platform headlined by Hajiya Zainab Saleh to sustain development of girls in Karate. Offering them exposure to high-level international competition and invaluable experience.
The event which was on its 8th edition, draws participants from all 36 states of Nigeria, the Federal Capital Territory,
and West Africa. Call it a local event with big wings, for it has grown to become the most consistent non-government funded karate event in Nigeria.
Muslim girls on hijab were not allowed to compete, and this was not in the rules they received.
”How about they stop inviting Muslims for Karate” an angry witness said.
‘They will not allow hijab students to compete, they didn’t tell us this and made us come all the way. Its not fair,’ vented another witness.
Reaching out to some other people who have been part of the event, especially last year. One of them said the issue of hijab was mentioned last year but she is surprised they didn’t include it in their rules this year, that she said would have blocked this embarrassment.
Mistakes made by organizers of the Zainab Saleh International Karate Championship
In a document obtained and information gotten from witnesses, there are two major mistakes made by the organizers;
Information: In a document obtained, there was no mention of hijab or head cover. Some people said they got information of the main event late while other felt it should have been mentioned in the registration.
One said; ”They kept mentioning WKF but how many of us even understand the rules. They should be able to explain it to us.”
Merchandize: We also go to know that the so-called WKF approved caps or head cover was not being sold at the venue or anywhere before the venue. We stressed by checking the internet for sellers and found only three foreign merchants selling and at super costs. Sales at the venue or before would have been a sign of faith or respect.
In every Karate championship, 40 per cent of them are usually females. Aside from that, the world demands self-defense lessons for every girl child, and one of the ways many may ever experience combat is through competitions.
For Muslim Imans, getting into a Karate gi and is something that deserves commendation, putting a little cover on the head with face clearly seen shouldn’t be an issue.
Yes, we note that girls on hijab were only recently allowed to compete in Karate but shouldn’t it be slow-steady-strong instead of automatic?
In 2013, the WKF allowed women to wear the Islamic headscarf but what was approved looked like a ‘joke with faith’ – ‘a head cover for swimmers’. Yet, one would say its not bad, but giving the sensitivity, why jump into it for marketing instead of sensitivity.
Also in 2013, the UAE hosted an Asian Karate Championship, which saw many Arab women fighting with their hijab.
This was the first major international karate event after the World Karate Federation approved the use of hijab for women participants in January that year.
It was also the first time the event will be hosted by an Arab nation, said Major-General Nasser Abdulrazaq Alrazooqi, President, UAE Tekwondo and Karate Federation and member of EC OFWKF.
The UAE National Ladies karate team comprising 12 Emirati women also participated.
“Karate is popular in the UAE, especially among expatriates, and we are trying to make it more popular among the Emiratis. There are good number of Emaratis and Arabs interested in the game and the decision to allow use of hijab in such competitions will attract more Arab women to take up karate,” said Naser Abdul Razak.
He added that “This is the first time an Arab Gulf country is hosting the event, and we expect more women participation. While normally there are more than 1000 participants in such competitions, 40 per cent are female. The number of female participants in the Asian Karate championship will be finalized within three days.”
It has continue since then with head-to-neck hijab.
Choice at adult age
In November 2019, a second-generation Egyptian-American Aprar Hassan became the first Muslim girl to fight on the Amateur Athletic Union’s (AAU) USA National Karate Team, all while keeping her hijab on.
Hassan grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Her father, Yasser Salama, had competed on the Egyptian national karate team before he moved to the US in 1996. Hassan is the only daughter alongside her three brothers, all of whom were taught karate by their father. Hassan got into karate early in her life, having started lessons at the Muslim American Society by the age of 3, and competing in US national competitions by the age of 5.
Hassan won her first title in 2017 when she was 14, at the AAU Karate National Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina.
When special people like this start coming out, into one of the most peaceful form of martial arts, reasoning is all it takes.
In India, a 23-year-old Haleema Momin calls herself ‘Hijabi Beast’. The athlete from Jogeshwari who performs callisthenics stands out not only for her choice of career but also her attire.
These two ladies flowed with the different hijabs, the head to neck and that approved by the WKF. A smooth transition is all it takes. Aprar Hassan flowed from head-to-neck hijab because her Karate was now international and she loved it too, on the local level it was purely head-to-neck, tucked in neatly.
Advice to WKF and other Karate event hosts on Hijab
- Allow teenagers to wear the head-neck hijab, they have no say over their lives until legal age. You can implement the ‘just-head-cover’ from the legal age, here they can make their own decisions (though irrespective of country or state)
See it as a medium to excite or keep the excitement of Muslim girls who are interested in Karate ( to finally make a ‘clear decision’ when they come of age, instead of hate for the art.)
Karate is now a world culture, diversifying smoothly into that is not a bad thing. The standard rules can be applied WKF HQ events, but locally, have some second thoughts so the art does not go against its own preaching which is to bring the world together in brotherhood.
In Nigeria for instance there are reverend sisters who love Karate as well as the Muslim girls and women, what do you do with that interest?