2008 Summer Olympics will be held in Beijing this coming August. While we thought we are going to see some of the best athletes competing, not everyone can join the tournament because of the restriction imposed by their countries. Few conservative Muslim countries still ban their female athletes to join international sports. Not because their sportswomen are not good, but because of their belief in how a woman should dress in sports event.
Fortunately, not all Muslim countries are having this special restriction. In Southern Asia including Indonesia, we have seen some of their sportswomen winning medals. Susi Susanti, a well known badminton player, has won gold medal in the woman’s singles at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona. On the other hand, Muslim countries in Central Asia only permit women participating sports activities in which they have to cover their bodies and hair. In Iran, it only allows women participating in sports when no men are nearby.
Some activists are trying to encourage all female athlete to participate in major sports event like Olympics. They organize campaign to get all countries to send women to participate Olympics games. Ever since the campaign was initiated in 1992 Olympics, the number of countries, which send only male delegations, has dropped from 35 to 5 countries in Sydney Games in year 2000. Out of these 5 countries, four are Middle Eastern countries.
Good news is that advances in sportswear may have actually helped to open up door for Muslim sportswomen in those countries, though by chance. For instance, the initial objective of full body swimsuit is actually to reduce water resistance, but these new gears have also enabled Pakistan female swimmers to participate in 2004 Athens Olympics.
This coming August 2008, Afghanistan will be sending a total of three athletes to Beijing. One of them is 19 years old Mehbooba Ahadyar. She will be runnning in the 1500 meter and 3000 meters. For her, winning is secondary. Seeing Afghanistan flag flying in Olympics will definitely make her proud. (Also competing will be Massoud Azizi in the 100 and 200 meters, and Rohullah Nikpah in taekwondo.) My salute to her after finding out how she actually trains in a country where women are barely allowed outside without a male escort. No nice gym and without good stadium. But only determination and the love of sports. I hope to see more Muslim women from those countries to compete. Moving ahead does not mean leaving their faith behind.
Whether Mehbooba Ahadyar is running with her Islamic robes and head scarves, it does not really matter. In my opinion, to go to Beijing, she has already won.
Category: Other Fitness/Sports Articles
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