Muslim muay Thai fighter launches her own line of sports hijabs

These women are feminists ... and Muslim
These women are feminists ... and Muslim

Michael Jordan has his own line of shoes. Tiger Woods has his own line of golf apparel.

And now Ruqsana Begum, a Muslim muay Thai fighter, has her own line of sports hijabs.

"I'm fighting for a world title and launching my product at the same time, so this is huge for me now," said Begum, the British champion of female Atomweight muay Thai boxing.

As a Muslim woman and martial arts fighter of Bangladeshi background, Begum described herself as "a minority of a minority of a minority."

"Being a Muslim I understand the need for a sports hijab, to feel empowered by a sports hijab," she told CNNMoney, speaking by phone from her family's home in London. "Sports need to be open to all backgrounds including Muslim women who might be intimidated by the idea of walking into a gym."

The hijab is a head covering worn by some Muslim women. Although Begum doesn't wear the hijab, she figures there's a market for a stretchable, £16 ($22.50) Lycra head covering that doesn't come loose while fighting.

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Begum led a double life when she started training in 2002 at age 18, hiding her muay Thai involvement from her traditional parents for years. But they eventually came around to it, she said.

"They've kind of adapted to the changes in the society and they've seen me hold on to my tradition and my culture, so they don't feel threatened by it," she said.

ruqsana begum
British muay thai champion Ruqsana Begum is launching a line of sports hijabs as she gears up for the world title fight.

Since then she's won a bronze medal in an international competition in Bangkok, she became the British champion in her weight class and captain of the British team, won a gold medal in a European competition in Latvia, and was a torchbearer at the 2012 Olympics in London.

She had to let go of one part of her culture, though. She said that fasting for Ramadan during training left her "shattered," especially after she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue in 2010.

Unlike Jordan and Woods, who partnered with Nike (NKE) for their sports apparel launches, Begum designed her own line and outsourced manufacturing to a factory in Pakistan, after trying unsuccessfully to line up a manufacturer in England.

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Begum didn't invent the idea of a sports hijab. Soccer players and other athletes, primarily from the Middle East, already wear sports hijabs of various brands, like Capsters.

"I was the inventor of the sports hijab," said Capsters co-founder Cindy van den Bremen, a Dutch designer who isn't Muslim.

She said she designed the sports hijab in 1999 for a Muslim student in the Netherlands who was "expelled from gym class because of her supposedly unsafe hijab." She established the Capsters brand two years later, and co-founded the Capsters company in 2008. She sells different styles online, including watersports, football and runner, for € 22.50 ($25.66.)

"We think it's great what Ruqsana has done," said Bremen, a teacher at Design Academy Eindhoven in the Netherlands. "It's a pity we didn't know Ruqsana was looking for sports hijabs."

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