Amana Siddiqi loved swimming as a child but gave it up as a teenager because her Muslim faith required she fully cover her body in public.

“At age 15, I started to cover, so I stopped going to public pools,” said Siddiqi, now 27, whose parents come from India and Pakistan. “Most of my friends stopped, too. They felt self-conscious.”

Then last summer Siddiqi bought a specially made swimsuit that covers her body while allowing full motion _ and went snorkeling and rode watercraft and slides while on vacation in Hawaii.

Muslim girls and women are increasingly participating in athletic activities, especially as second- and third-generation children of immigrants grow up surrounded by American influences. But doing so requires them to overcome a seemingly large obstacle: Islam’s traditional emphasis on modest dress.

When it comes to water sports, the challenge can be even more difficult than in Muslim countries, where the sexes are often separated in pools and on beaches. America is predominantly coed, and increasingly the norm is skimpy swimsuits.

Enter the new-and-improved all-body suit.

While full-body swimwear has been around for decades, in the last couple years it has undergone a renaissance as the niche market has grown. Today about a dozen stores, based in the United States and abroad, sell swimwear to Muslim-American women, mostly through online catalogues. . .

Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Muslim women often hold swimming parties in private pools but added that the special suits and public swimming are becoming more popular.

“The suits basically protect women from the unwanted looks of men,” he said.


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