I placed islamic in inverted commas simply because I am not a big fan of labelling things as Islamic when they are not exclusively for Islam or explicitly Islamic… but what else can I call it? Any NICE suggestions are welcome.
That point aside I finally bit the bullet (partially inspired by a fellow blogger)and bought myself a splashgear swimsuit. This company is based in California, USA and was set up by a marine biologist, who came up with the idea when she wore hijab and missed swimming :)
In total, with shipping from the USA to the UK it costs about £50, a bit steep but I felt worth it if it was any good. However, British Customs and Excise then held my package hostage demanding payment of about £50 (tax + custom and excise)!!!! I was most put out and disappointed, but I coughed up the money anyway… I really really missed swimming :)
Having arrived I decided to ‘test’ it before taking the plunge, and took a shower in it. It was very light, did not absorb much water and the top actually got looser. I concluded that I felt comfortable with the level of modesty it offered, and vowed to try in out `for real’. Plucking up the courage to do that took me a few months. It also looked pretty ok, expect for the head piece… that just makes me look like a ninja turtle or some sort of prehistoric water creature! (swamp thing maybe?)
I recently joined a gym which has a pool, and I asked the lady who sold me the membership about restrictions they had on swimwear, and explained the basic idea of the suit I had, she said it was fine, people swim in leggings and T-shirts. That was a real relief, in the UK people can be quite anal about what you can and cannot wear in a pool. My suit was specifically designed to comply with health and safety regulations, but I really did not want a confrontation.
This particular gym has a pseudo-women’s only evening once a week, I say pseudo because you occasionally see a male employee knocking about, so I chose that evening for my suit’s debut and signed up for an aqua aerobics class. I put on a brave face, tried very hard not to think of Manal Omar’s horrid experience at the David Lloyd (a fancy sports club) Centre in Oxford, and put on my 4 piece suit. I have to wear a run of the mill one-piece under a pair of swim pants (which are a longer version of swim shorts that men wear), and a rash guard top that is designed to be looser across the chest than your average rash guard top, and my fish-type head cover.
Nobody seemed to give me a second glass, I say seemed because I dont wear my glasses when swimming, and basically I am as blind as a bat without them, so in principle I may have received funny looks, but can be pretty sure that nobody pointed and laughed loudly at me. Most importantly I was left alone, nobody challenged me or questioned the suitability of the outfit.
From a practical perspective, the suit was good. Swimming was easy, and I just need to get used to having something next to my skin while swimming. It did introduce extra resistance while doing the aqua exercises, and the trousers did balloon while I was standing. I think next time I will get the narrower leg trousers (I got the wide leg ones). When you exit the water the top does stick but a quick tug at the bottom loosens it immediately, this is something that was made clear by the manufacturers though.
In all, if asked, I would give the suit 9/10. Marks deducted for the head piece, and 1/2 for increased resistance (if only very slight).