Helen McCue & Fatima Kourouche
Recreation and sport in Australia remain contested areas for women and even more so for Muslim Australian women. This chapter explores the hypothesis that Muslim women are engaging with the dominant discourses of both Islam and Australian in recreational and sports culture in a fluid and dynamic two-way process that actively contests their exclusion from this significant aspect of Australian social and cultural life.
Contrary to the normative discourse surrounding Muslim women and sport, Muslim women in Australia do in fact participate in a wide variety of sporting and recreational activities within their own religious understandings of modesty, covering and gendered spaces. The chapter describes how Muslim women have resisted the dominant discourses of power in social structures in relation to swimwear, as well as in swimming and gym spaces, and in several competitive sports. Through contesting these discourses and occupying, through agency, these ‘spaces of autonomy’ they have created a new identity of self. In so doing myths around Muslim women and sport in Australia have been challenged and a new discourse in these contested areas has emerged. Such agency is contributing to the development of new meanings in religion and sports culture as well as to the emergence of a newly empowered negotiated self, a new identity: that of the Australian Muslim sports woman.