The Status of Muslim Women in Sport: Conflict between Cultural Tradition and Modernization

Leila Sfeir
Department of Sociology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 702 S. Wright Street, Urbana, ILL 61801, U.S.A.
Published data on Muslim women's participation in sport in 29 predominantly Islamic countries and personal observations in Middle East sport were used. The situation varies from country to country, from rural to urban areas, and depends on impact of Islamic resurgence, secularism, nationalism, Westernization and socialism. Physical education is officially compulsory in schools but, partly due to traditional attitudes and lack of facilities for segregation of the sexes, often neglected in practice. If at all, women are prepared for teaching of rather than for active participation in sport. The original teachings of Islam, actually favoring physical and spiritual development of both sexes, were overshadowed by other restrictive cultural influences. A change is taking place, but very slowly.
For full article, please refer to: http://irs.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/20/4/283


Daughters of Islam

Daughters of Islam:
Family Influences on Muslim Young Women’s Participation in Sport

Tess Kay
Loughborough University, UK, t.a.kay@lboro.ac.uk

This article examines the significance of family influence on young women from minority (Muslim) communities who have participated in a combined sport and education programme designed to encourage access to further and higher education. The study explores how family expectations about the roles of young women affect the participants' responses to the programme. The research examines young women's understanding of their parents' views in relation to their participation in the programme and their broader aspirations for their daughters' adult lives in the family, education and employment domains. The young women's accounts of their family members' views on minority life in Britain, and the influence this might have on their own opportunities and experiences, are also considered. The research was conducted in partnership with a graduate female Muslim Sport and education development worker and with young female participants (n = 7) in the sports programme, all of whom were actively involved in the design, implementation and analysis of the study. The young women undertook in-depth interviews within their families, and responded to the content of these in subsequent focus group discussions. The study revealed extensive parental influence on the young women's involvement in the sports programme and over their lives as a whole, and the significance of Islam within this; however, it also highlighted the extent to which young people `navigated' between their family identity and the westernized experiences they were exposed to on a day-to-day basis. Conclusions are drawn about the value of sport in illuminating the lived experience of minority groups, and on the need for further analysis of young people's sports behaviour in the context of family.
Key Words: family • Islam • Muslim • sport • young women

International Review for the Sociology of Sport, Vol. 41, No. 3-4, 357-373 (2006)
Full version available: http://irs.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/41/3-4/357

Fatwa on football?

Well, why not? If the National Fatwa Council is presumably on the verge of banning yoga because its origins are non-Islamic and foreign to Muslim teachings, it seems to me we ought to also be considering a fatwa on all forms of indulgence in football.
Football, particularly the organised form of the game, has its origins in the West – the heart of the infidel world! Indeed, the sport is something deeply embedded in the culture of these infidels. It is associated with, for those who passionately follow the sport, indulgence in excessive exuberance and cult like fanaticism. Its enthusiasts are often prone to engage in vices like excessive alcohol consumption, gambling, and even hooliganism.
Oh, and while they’re at it, we might as well suggest to these supposed ‘religious scholars’ that they may also want to issue a fatwa prohibiting men from cooking. You see apparently, ‘at [a] fatwa council meeting, the religious scholars have also decided to issue a fatwa against females from dressing or behaving like men and engaging in lesbian sex.Council chairperson Abdul Shukor had said that many young women admired the way men dress, behave and socialise, violating human nature and denying their feminity[sic].’
So in the interest of not ‘violating human nature’ and conversely ensuring that men don’t violate their masculinity, I think these co-called religious scholars ought to give serious consideration to issuing a fatwa that would put a stop to men cooking. Don’t you just see the serious threat it would pose to ‘human nature’ and the distinction between femininity and masculinity if we continued to allow men to indulge in hanging around the kitchen and cooking?
You see the fact is, these Taliban like characters who very likely know next to nothing about the origins of the science of yoga - let alone its practice – seem completely at ease to cast aspersions about a complex and scientifically oriented method of mind and body conditioning. Quite transparently, what we see unfolding here is more intent on regulating the lives of others than in respecting the rights of people to pursue their faith as they see it. Specifically, the subtext in these developments about potential fatwas against yoga and ‘tomboys’ seem to be more about patriarchal dominance – not religious sensibilities.
If I was to venture a guess, I would suspect that yoga, if it is at all appeals to any segment of Muslims, it must be drawing a disproportionate amount of attention among urbane women. Just as the concern over ‘human nature’ and ‘femininity’ is obviously directed at regulating women’s conduct.
Ironically, this strikes me as not too far removed from the idea some months back from the foreign and home ministries to require women travelling abroad to carry a permission letter from their employer or family member. Perhaps you remember that little episode?
Perhaps these ‘religious scholars’ are capable of explaining to the wider Muslim population (and others as well) precisely where in religious texts do we find admonitions against dressing like ‘tomboys’ or undertaking a specific form of exercising regiment? [Of course this does not even begin to address the problem of how would you exactly decide when one is 'guilty' of dressing like a 'tomboy.'] Indeed, from the Islamic scholarship and scholars I’ve consulted, one will find about as much stipulated against ‘tomboys’ and yoga as there is against football. Issuing a religious edict against ‘tomboys’ and yoga has about as much grounding in Islamic teaching as issuing a fatwa against football based on Islamic religious grounds. There’s no relevant and credible religious basis for it.
But there sure seems to be a lot of patriarchy as to why these Taliban like religious authorities might find it convenient and appealing to regulate the kind of conduct closely associated with women.
G. Krishnan
From: http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/14402/84/