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Can Germans stand up for hijabs as they do for unitards?

13 27 1

This year’s Olympics were widely hailed as the most progressive instalment of the event in its 125-year history. Early media coverage in the lead-up to the games focused on the fact that almost half of the participants were women – a first for the international event since its inception in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

However, the headlines were soon replaced by coverage of the German women gymnasts’ somewhat radical choice of sportswear, which sought to challenge the expected bikini-cut leotards. The team captured global media attention when they wore long-sleeved, long-legged unitards, which one of the participants said was intended to “show that every woman, everybody, should decide what to wear”. They were hailed for defying the norms of the often revealing uniforms women athletes are expected to wear, and that some feel “uncomfortable or even sexualised” in.

While the action taken by the German athletes was symbolically important, the conversations surrounding the initiative, the gymnasts’ intentions, and their impact have felt quite limited to the small world of Olympic sports. This has been a missed opportunity to expand the public conversation on the issue, especially for Germany, which has been targeting women’s choice of dress for many years.

For over 15 years, German Muslim women have been fighting against systematic attempts by local authorities and the federal state to dictate what they can and cannot wear in public. It would have only made sense to bring this long struggle to the attention of the German public and have an honest discussion about how all women deserve the right to choose what they wear.

While German Muslims have faced discrimination for decades, women in particular........

© Al Jazeera

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