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Last Updated: Friday, 25 August 2006, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
Muslims 'face barriers' over sport
Nina Robinson
BBC World Service News

London Olympic celebrations
There are high hopes for sport after London secured the 2012 Olympics

The 2012 Olympic Games in London is expected to provide a big boost for sport in the UK.

But there are still barriers to taking part in some communities, despite plenty of interest.

The Olympic games, coming to the British capital in 2012, continues to have an enormous impact on east London.

Huge areas of waste land have been cleared to make way for a state-of-the-art stadium and Olympic village, slum housing has been refurbished and property prices are booming. But is everyone getting excited about sport?

Not according to the organisation Sport England which encourages nationwide participation of sporting activities.

Its figures show that Muslim women are significantly less likely to take up exercise compared to other groups.

Some 39% of women nationwide do sport compared to only 19% of Indian and Bengali women.

In addition, there are cultural barriers involved in the take up of sport as a professional career option for many Muslims, both male and female.

Sport enthusiast

Eighteen-year-old Raheema from Tower Hamlets in east London explains how she only plays badminton in her backyard, away from prying eyes.

She is not encouraged to do any sport by her family who would rather see her in the kitchen or sewing. She last did sport regularly at school as it was compulsory then.

The last time she went swimming was six years ago when she was 12 years old and before she hit puberty. Raheema says this is because no Muslim girl can wear a revealing swimming costume.

Seventeen-year-old Asha on the other hand, another Muslim girl from east London, is a sport enthusiast.

She loves playing football and has been playing for the past seven years and has the trophies to prove it.

But she knows her days playing the game are numbered. Her mother, father and eldest brother are against her playing.

She says they will probably stop her from playing next year when she is 18. She will be a woman then and have to take on responsibilities.

"Now I'm young, I can play," she said. "Sometimes I get excited (about the thought of playing professionally) but then I think my mum won't let me, and my brother and I think I won't be allowed."

Cultural barriers

Shahid Saleh, a young British Muslim who has five sisters, explains how he does not like the idea of them playing games.

"I wouldn't want them to play sports," he said. "You're not allowed to uncover yourself like wearing tracksuit bottoms and all that, and play football or badminton, you have to cover yourself."

Cultural barriers remain in taking up a career in sport. Twelve-year-old Zahir Ahmed says that his parents encourage him to study hard rather than to waste time playing.

Although he does reckon his father would want him to become a famous tennis player as there is a lot of money in it.

Meanwhile, Sport England is working to try to get more Muslim women doing sport.

It is funding projects which target these groups and put on exclusive women-only activities which allow women wearing the full hijab and covered up to still take part.

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