Faith Plays a Role for Hijab-Wearing Referee

Faith Plays a Role for Hijab-Wearing Referee

All eyes are on the 2020 Olympics which are well underway in Tokyo. The opening ceremonies were a beautiful display of what might be possible if we as humans can ever all get on the same page. Through the days and nights, eager fans can watch their favorite summer sports and cheer on more than 11,000 competitors from 206 countries. There are amazing stories of individuals overcoming personal adversity and reaching incredible heights. Stories of sacrifice, talent, and hard work. Their stories can also teach us about our own potential.

Sarah Gamal didn’t think about being the first hijab-wearing woman to referee basketball at the Olympics when she developed a love of the game as a young child. Her interest in the sport grew from watching her older sister play and train back home in Egypt. But by the time she turned 15, she was not only playing basketball, she was refereeing.

Working in a male-dominated arena is nothing new for 32-year-old Gamal; she works as a civil engineer working in Alexandria, the second largest city in Egypt. She credits her success on and off the court to her Islamic faith which keeps her grounded. “I believe that if I do my best with everything, the best will come back to me. You have to work with all that you have. And then say, ‘I did my best,’ and leave it to God so He guides your journey.”

For Gamal, the achievements keep on coming. She is the first International Basketball Federation referee to wear a hijab at an international level. Up until 2017, the sport banned all headgear including prohibiting Muslim women from wearing the hijab in competitions. She is also the first Arab and African woman to officiate a 3x3 basketball game at the Olympics. This is the debut of 3x3 competition, often considered the world’s most-played urban team sport.

Muslim women often wear hijab while competing in their home countries but they are becoming more visible on the world stage. Be on the lookout. You will find them competing in the Tokyo Olympics 2020 in a variety of sports including track and field, martial arts, badminton, soccer, and more.   

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