Nike Sparks Controversy

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A Nike ad that has been playing worldwide, featuring women from the Middle East, has sparked controversy within the Arabian world. The advert begins with an Arabian woman adjusting her veil before going out running in the streets of Dubai.

“What will they say about you?” and “maybe they’ll say you exceeded all expectations” can be overheard in the narrative of the ad.

Within 48 hours, the ad had gained more than 400,000 views via YouTube and had been shared by over 75,000 retweets via Twitter. A lot of people shared and expressed their opinion of the ad, criticizing Nike for not showing a “true representation” of Muslim women in the Middle
East.

Dubai advertising executive Nadim Ghasam said: “We need to start driving the conversation away from Arab women being subjects of segregation or oppression, and more towards them being enablers, achievers, and go-getters she says. One of the stars of the ad, 24-year-old Amal Mourad, a parkour athlete shown leaping across rooftops, has spoken about the difficulties she faced in convincing in her father to allow her to train in a gym where men were present. She said: “Convincing my father was the toughest part. If you want something bad enough, you stick. She said: “Convincing my father was the toughest part. If you want something bad enough, you stick to it, and you can get it done.”

In Saudi Arabia, physical education is prohibited in all-girls’ public schools, and women’s gyms remain illegal in the Kingdom because female athleticism is deemed un-Islamic. Speaking to the Okaz newspaper this month, Saudi Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud said the government would soon provide female gyms with licenses, citing public health reasons and not women’s empowerment. In her capacity as a senior official at the General Authority of Sports, she said: “It is not my place to convince society, but my role is limited to opening the doors for our girls to
live a healthy lifestyle.”

She continued to say: “Hijab and sports don’t collide. But ignorant peoples’ ideas about women do. My hijab is freedom. Shame on you Nike.” The advert features Emirati figure skater Zahra Lari, Tunisian fencer Ines Boubakri, Jordanian boxer Arifa Bseiso, Emirati parkour athlete Amal Mourad, and Saudi Arabian singer Balqees Fathi. Despite the backlash, Nike also received praise from some social media users. Sara-Al Zawqari, a spokeswoman for the International Red Cross in Iraq, wrote on Twitter regarding the Nike ad says: “It helps insecurities of women in society, it digs deeper and becomes the product of empowerment tool rather than just a product.”

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