First, it was the burqa. Then, the burkini. And now, it seems the hijab is next on the list of articles of Muslim women's clothing to face intense scrutiny in the West. As the debate about the head scarf rages on, Muslim women are often left out of the conversation entirely, their voices drowned out in the cacophony of non-Muslims arguing on their behalf.
But Muslim women are certainly pushing back, some creating their own platforms to address the controversy, and some in more subtle ways. Take Ibtihaj Muhammad, for example. As America's first-ever hijab-wearing athlete at the Olympics, Muhammad let her accomplishments do the talking. And there are others in the sporting world following in her footsteps, too — like Rahaf Khatib, a hijabi runner who most recently graced the cover of Women's Running magazine.
Women's Running Editor in Chief Jessie Sebor told BuzzFeed that they first discovered Khatib when the marathon runner and triathlete reached out to them with a challenge to increase their representation of Muslim hijabi women. "We couldn't help but hear her," Sebor said.
Khatib was born in Damascus, Syria, but relocated to the U.S. with her parents in the 1980s. Her hijab, she told the magazine, means "following my religion, not my husband." And she wants to inspire other Muslim women to conquer their fears of exclusion in the running community. "It's so rare that I'll have someone say something negative to me," she told Women's Running about that misconception. "Runners are just happy."
Having a Muslim hijabi woman on the cover of a national sporting magazine is huge and marks yet another example of the ways Muslim women are breaking down stereotypes about themselves.
But it's no surprise that Women's Running rose up to Khatib's challenge. In June, the magazine announced that it would feature a transgender woman, Amelia Gapin, on its July cover — another monumental first for the publication.
Clearly, the publication has a strong commitment to inclusivity and diverse representation. And considering how problematic some girls' magazines have recently proven themselves to be, Women's Running is setting an example that the rest of the industry could do well to follow.