Debate in Saudi Arabia over Women's Sports

Recently, the Saudi public, government, and religious discourse has been engaged in a debate over women's sports, particularly women's gyms, physical education instruction in girls' schools, and competitive sports clubs for women.
The issue of women's sports clubs has reemerged on the public agenda following the International Olympic Committee's threat to suspend membership of any country that has not established sports frameworks for women by 2010. [1] Nevertheless, when discussion of this issue took place, in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, [2] some senior Saudi officials, including the deputy head of the Saudi Shura Council, opposed the idea, while others supported and even promoted the idea of women's sports. A well-known Saudi businessman, Prince Walid ibn Talal, even organized a reception honoring the country's first women's soccer team, Ittihad Al-Muluk. [3]
Another issue making headlines recently was the closure of women's gyms in several cities, on order of the Saudi Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs - on the grounds that the centers were operating without proper medical supervision. [4] The Saudi English-language daily Arab News commented that the General Presidency for Youth Welfare and Sports (GPYWS), the only institution authorized to license gyms, had been granting licenses only to men's gyms while ignoring women's. [5] The Saudi daily Al-Madina reported that Saudi women had launched an Internet campaign protesting the closures, under the slogan "Let her be fat!" Members of the Parliamentary Social, Family, and Youth Affairs Committee demanded that the GPYWS implement the existing Shura Council order and open gyms for women. [6]
As to physical education in girls' schools, this has been a topic of public debate for a number of years now. GPYWS deputy head Nawaf bin Fahed announced at a Shura Council session that in the near future the GPYWS would allow this in girls' schools. [7]
An Al-Riyadh article, titled "Women's sports: The Minority of Opponents Has Prevailed over the Majority of Supporters," presented data from a public survey on women's sports, which was conducted by the SaudiCenter for Statistical Research. According to the survey, 89% of the population think that sports are important for women; 10% think that they are important to some degree; and only 1% hold that sports are not important for women at all. Furthermore, 48% supported gyms for women; 44% supported them provided that they were designed in accordance with the unique nature of Saudi society; and only 4% were categorically opposed to gyms for women. [8]
Clerics' opinions on this issue were diverse; some categorically opposed all sports activities for women, while others sanctioned them under certain conditions.
Following are excerpts from relevant articles in the Saudi press:
Saudi Mufti: Women's Sports Are Against the Will of Allah
Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-'Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh refused to sanction women's sports, stating that "[such] demand is tantamount to a call for wantonness, for transgressing [the rules of] modesty, and for disobeying [feminine] nature, which Allah instilled in the woman upon creation." He further stated: "A woman is expected to be a homemaker and a caregiver for her children; it is she who builds the family and shares [responsibility] for its management. If she leaves [her home] for the sake of such things [i.e. sports], she will forget herself… she will neglect her husband and children, and waste her time on games and amusement, unaware of what is happening to her and to her children. [And] what will become of [her] home?" [9]
The religious establishment's negative attitude to women's sports was manifested in a fatwa issued by senior Saudi cleric Sheikh 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Barak, who maintained that women's sports clubs should be banned. Thus, when asked for a ruling on this issue, he stated: "The foundations of shari'a and its emphasis on upholding the woman's honor and the purity of society prescribe that these clubs be banned. It is clear to anyone who understands the place of sports in the Muslim world as well as shari'a ordinances and laws that these clubs are one of the main factors in the Westernization of the Muslim woman and the corruption of Muslim society. Hence, the opening of such clubs would be improper; [it is] forbidden because they breed vice. A woman must always - even today - fulfill Allah's commandment [to women] - as Allah commanded the Prophet's wives: 'And stay in your houses' [Koran 33:33].
"As for the arguments offered by several [advocates] of such clubs - that some women go out on the rooftops to exercise [such that gyms would be a lesser evil], the answer is that a sin committed by a minority of women should not be redressed by a greater sin, which [in this case] would be tantamount to opening the door for women throughout Saudi Arabia to leave [their homes].
"It is well known that these clubs do not cause all women to engage in sports, but only a small part who [actually] take part in competitions, while the rest watch and cheer… It is also known that these clubs are appropriate only for those women whose sense of shame is either lacking or absent altogether.
"These clubs are nothing but playgrounds and amusement venues, and [the cause of] moral corruption… [for they], along with men's sports clubs, contribute to the degradation of the [Muslim] nation by wasting private and public funds on useless things…
"It is both inconceivable and incompatible with Islam that our nation, which is threatened by enemies, should promote amusement and play - [indeed,] this would gratify the enemies of the Muslims… Those who call to establish such clubs, and who like them, collude in [sowing] corruption, which these clubs have promoted in the past and will promote in the future…" [10]
Columnist for Islamic websites Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Azraq supported Al-Barak's fatwa and argued that it did not ban all women's sports activities, but only prohibited the establishment of competitive sports clubs for women. He said that Sheikh Al-Barak was not banning women from running a race against her husband, or from working out on a treadmill in her home. [11]
Saudi Cleric: Only Virgins Are Forbidden to Participate In Sports
In opposition to Sheikh Aal Al-Sheikh, member of the Council for Muslim Clerics Dr. 'Ali 'Abbas Al-Hakami sanctioned women's sports, saying it was a religious precept. He stated: "Women are undoubtedly permitted to participate in sports if the purpose is to keep healthy and enhance physical activity; more than that, this is a religious obligation. Sports is a means of keeping one's body healthy, which is a religious obligation. Our body is entrusted to us, and we must look after it and protect it from sickness, including obesity, diabetes and so on, which cannot be done in any other way except by watching our diet and doing sports."
Al-Hakami further stated, "There is nothing [in religious law] that precludes the opening of women's gyms, provided that they do not cause transgression, for example, by the mixing of men and women, the exposure of intimate body parts, or the violation of any other religious prohibition." [12]
Other clerics permitted women to engage in sports under certain conditions. Thus, member of the Saudi Council of Muslim Clerics Sheikh Dr. 'Abdallah bin Suleiman Al-Mani'i stated: "Religious law does not prohibit [all] women from engaging in sports, but only virgins… Some 'ulama and religious authorities hold that a girl who is still a virgin must not be allowed to participate in sports, lest her hymen be damaged." Al-Mani'i refrained from commenting specifically on the issue of separate sports clubs for women, stating that this must be ruled on by the Council of Muslim Clerics, the country's highest religious legislative authority. He added that women's participation in sports was a central element in the plan to corrupt the feminine virtue, and one of the central items on the agenda of those who promote Westernization and who seek to undermine the rule of Islam in Saudi Arabia. [13]
Dr. Muhammad bin Musa Al-Sharif, a researcher at the Islamic studies department of King 'Abd Al-'Aziz University in Jeddah, stated that religious law permitted women to engage in sports, albeit under the following five conditions: "That the type of sport [she chooses] is not one of those that doctors do not recommend [for women]; that it does not endanger women's health; that it won't cause a woman to expose her intimate body parts or won't cause her embarrassment by exposing these parts [accidentally]; that it is not competitive - [because] this might lead to enmity, foul language, and invective; that a woman be warned against modern sports clubs where women gather together and where their intimate body parts are exposed; and that a woman be warned against leaving her home alone under the pretext of going to a training session or jogging."
Al-Sharif went on to state: "If she wants to do these things, she must go with a male relative or with a group of women… It would be wrong to categorically prohibit women from engaging in sports, and it would be equally wrong to permit this unconditionally… The middle-of-the-road [approach] is a hallmark of Islam and the course taken by the believers." [14]
Saudi Columnist: Participating in Sports Will Help a Woman Find a Husband
Many Saudi columnists opposed the fatwas prohibiting women's sports, and argued that religious discussions of this issue were unnecessary. Columnist for the Saudi daily 'Okaz Muhammad bin 'Ali Al-Harafi maintained that Islam encouraged women to engage in sports, and that there was no need to wait for a fatwa in order to introduce physical education in schools: "A religious principle stipulates that a thing is permitted unless there is an explicit prohibition against it. Is it stated [anywhere] that girls are forbidden to [engage in] sports of any kind? I am not aware of such a text; conversely, I know a text that states the opposite. Our Prophet encouraged everyone - men and women alike - to engage in sports, and he [even] enumerated [the kinds of activities] popular during his time. Indeed, 'Omar bin Al-Khattab said: 'Teach your children archery, swimming, and horseback riding.' Everyone knows that the word 'children' means girls and boys.
"Isn't it obvious that young men are reluctant to marry fat girls? Only Mauritanian men still keep the old Arab tradition whereby a girl's status increases with her weight. Do [opponents of women's sports] want to send our girls to [Mauritania to find husbands]? Isn't it better to offer them [another] solution - sports?" [15]
Columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Watan Rakan Habib wrote: "When 'ulama meet these clubs with fatwas, it is as though we were saying to the future generations: 'We have failed in [rational] dialogue; we have failed in tolerance; and [we have failed] in honoring and accepting the other.' This will increase confusion in [our] society." [16]
Saudi Intellectual: Sports Clubs Prevent Disease
Saudi intellectual Halima Al-Muzafar also responded to Sheikh Al-Barak's claim that women's sports clubs and gyms would undermine tradition. She stated: "How will we shut the door on the [daily manifestations of] corruption stemming from the fact that young women have too much free time on their hands, suffer from unemployment, are not given jobs at universities, and remain single because of the trafficking in dowries and [for the sake of] preserving the purity of the tribe?"
In response to Sheikh Al-Barak's argument that sports clubs for women would be a waste of public funds, she wrote: "How much does it cost the state to treat women for serious illnesses associated with obesity?… Two-thirds of [Saudi women] suffer from obesity or osteoporosis… [Medical] treatment for two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's female population costs the country much more than opening women's sports clubs would." [17]
[1] www.islamonline.net, March 15, 2009.
[2] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), March 27, 2007.
[3] Al-Quds Al-'Arabi (London), April 1, 2009.
[4] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), March 23, 2009.
[5] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), April 26, 2009.
[6] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), September 5, 2009.
[7] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), April 20, 2009.
[8] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), May 19, 2009.
[9] Al-Sabaq (Saudi Arabia), April 24, 2009.
[10] www.islamlight.net, April 16, 2009.
[11] http://almoslim.net, April 25, 2009.
[12] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 21, 2009.
[13] Al-Sabaq (Saudi Arabia), March 31, 2009.
[14] www.islamonline.ne t, March 15, 2009.
[15] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), May 5, 2009.
[16] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 10, 2009.
[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), May 15, 2009.
Source: http://www.memri.org/bin/latestnews.cgi?ID=SD237709


Montreal Muslim Olympics

I would like to publish the announcement of MMO directly from their own web-site. So far, I did not receive any news in mass media. -Sertaç S. K.
Life is a collection of doors and roads that we alone can choose to open or explore. For those compelled to explore the boundaries of their imagination and abilities, the Montreal Muslim Olympics offers an amazing opportunity to answer the question “How good do I want to be?”
Come and challenge yourself against some of the top Muslim athletes around the city, or just come by and enjoy a weekend of fun and games with your brothers and sisters. Either way there will be 500 athletes ready to compete in an all out sports battle to determine who will be the next MMO champions!Everyone is welcome! You don’t have to hoop-it-up like Kareem Abdul Jabbar or be the next Zinedine Zidane to show up and have a good time. And if athletics are not your Strong points, you can always drop by to help out or support your fellow Muslims!
If you’re ready to take part in the best Muslim sports event this summer just click the link and register at http://www.muslimolympics.ca/
The 3rd annual Muslim Olympics (formerly known as Inter-MSA Olympics), will be held May 30th and 31st , 2009 in the McGill Sports complex.
Inshallah we will see each and every one of you there!
Source: http://www.muslimolympics.ca/mmo2009/


Can sport help Bosnia forget the past?

By Daria Sito-Sucic
BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters Life!) - The biggest sporting event Bosnia has organized since the end of its devastating war 14 years ago has excited thousands of spectators -- but left others lamenting how the old nationalist passions remain.
Bosnia's second-largest city Banja Luka is hosting the world rafting championships this week.
Teams have come from 35 countries and five continents to race on the wild waters of the river Vrbas in northwestern Bosnia and the river Tara in the east.
Following the 1992-95 war between Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, the country has been divided into two rival ethnically based regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic, joined under a weak central government.
Organizers of the rafting, and many citizens, hope that holding big sports events can help ease ethnic animosities and bring people from the two regions together.
"This is one of the most positive things that has happened in the past 10 years," said Ana Lukic, whose whole family came to cheer the teams' parade in the center of Banja Luka.
"Everyone came for sports only and not for some national reasons," she added.
Certainly the competitors have been impressed.
I did not know about Bosnia as a rafting destination," admitted Australian Mick Weijsentfeld, carrying a boat to the river with his team mates.
"It's absolutely beautiful, the right scenery, and I think this is going to be a good competition," he added.
Australia was among the favorites to host this year's championship but Bosnia won despite a much lower budget due to the enthusiasm of the organizers and good preparations, said Aleksandar Pastir, the championship's director.
But booing of the U.S. and Turkish teams and huge ovations for the teams of Russia and Serbia highlighted again the dominance of politics in the Balkan country.
The Bosnian Serbs have been close economic and political allies of Serbia and Russia since the war.
Some war veterans' organizations have also said they will hold protest meetings during the visit to Sarajevo on Tuesday of U.S. Vice-President Joseph Biden, showing their disagreement with a policy they say favors Bosnian Muslims.
"This is a metaphor of our life here," said Banja Luka university professor Miodrag Zivanovic.
"Even this sports event was politicized, which shows that Bosnia will not be ready to organize in a dignified manner any sports or cultural event as long as it functions on ethnic patterns."
(Editing by Steve Addison)

Women-only pool sessions back

By Robert Fedele
WOMEN-only swimming sessions will return to the Ascot Vale Leisure Centre after community support led to the YMCA-run centre successfully gaining an exemption from the Equal Opportunity Act.
The Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal handed down its verdict on April 28.
The centre operated women-only sessions for several years but dropped them after its $13.8-million redevelopment was completed in September 2007.
The women-only swimming sessions will be staffed by women and run from 8-10pm on Sundays.
Handing down her decision, VCAT deputy president Cate McKenzie said the YMCA had received expressions of interest from more than 100 local women.
Letters of support were also received from the Centre for Multicultural Youth, the Ascot Vale Network (a group of service providers) and the Active Young African Program.
Ms McKenzie said a 2008 survey found service providers and Ascot Vale residents identified a need for women-only swimming sessions.
She said the decision aimed to correct a disadvantage faced by the large number of Muslim women living in Ascot Vale and neighbouring suburbs.
"It is clear from all the material before me that Muslim women are unable, because of their cultural and religious values and beliefs, to participate in swimming sessions in mixed male/female company.
"For them, it is not an option to attend the Ascot Vale Leisure Centre during its public opening hours when it is open to women and men alike.
"The only way to provide accessible opportunities to swim and learn to swim for these women is at times when the centre would be open to and staffed by women only."
YMCA spokeswoman Shona Eland said the swimming sessions would begin in July or August after $15,000 worth of blinds were in place to cover windows.
She said about 100 people were expected to attend weekly.
"We really want to make sure the programs we offer target the diverse community we have.
"'The community groups around Ascot Vale have been the ones working at [women-only sessions] and driving it to return."
The co-ordinator of the Jesuit Social Services African Program in Flemington, Cathy Guiness, said the service had helped introduce women-only sessions in Kensington in the past.
"We know how big the need is and how very successful swimming programs are," Ms Guiness said.
"It's important because there are really not a lot of physical activities available for Muslim women.
"They really appreciate the opportunity to learn to swim and to have social opportunities they can enjoy."
Nick Mac Hale of the Centre for Multicultural Youth's sports and recreation team said several municipalities had run successful women-only swimming sessions for years.
"Women from newly arrived backgrounds would have the lowest amount of participation in any sport in the last five years," he said.
"It just opens up the accessibility of a local leisure centre to the whole community. It's great that Ascot Vale has stood up and said, 'Yes, we need this'."


Islamic Games in New Jersey, May 22nd

Over the past few years the Annual Islamic Games attracted much excitement and participation. Since the Islamic Games is developing at a rapid pace and will soon be launching its Regional Games, I thought it would be best to share a bit of history with the TSM readers.
The Islamic Games was initially a project of the Muslim Workers Activites (MWA), a very active organization made up of brothers and sisters primarily from Guyana, South America. Most of their members were youths and very involved in Islamic development, sports and athletics; as a result they started the Annual Islamic Games to bring Muslim athletes and their family together to compete in unity and brotherhood, and that was the beginning.
The original organizing committee included Merajudeen Khan, Salaudeen Nausrudeen, Fazal Rahaman, Abuzar Ahmed, Aftabuddin Nausrudeen, Shaikh Abdullah Adhami and a few others. The small but very focused group successfully organized the Games from 1987 to 1991. During those initial years, the games grew rapidly from just a few hundred athletes to more than 800 athletes annually. Events included basketball, soccer, volleyball, track & field, cycling, arm wrestling and other non-competitive events.

Some of the past participants of the Islamic Games included Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Imam Jamil Al-Amin, Omar Amanat and many others who are today very successful and productive American Muslims. Participants came from NY, NJ, CT, PA and other nearby states and represnting an array of Muslims organizations and ethnicities.
After 1991 the Islamic Games was put on hold, it did not returned to the scene for many years. With a re-energized team and a stronger vision, the Islamic Games made its modern debut on Memorial Weekend 2007 with some assistance from ICNA. The response to the Games was phenomenal, more than 600 athletes participated in 2007 and that number grew to more than 1700 in 2008. Spectators grew from 1500 in 2007 to 6000 in 2008.
The 2009 Games is expected to attract more than 2200 athletes in more than 250 events and projected spectators of more than 10,000.
Source: http://www.islamic-games.com/


In Turkey, Women Playing Soccer Vie for Acceptance

ISTANBUL — On a recent cold, gray Sunday, two Turkish premier league soccer teams enthusiastically ran onto the field of a small stadium on the outskirts of Istanbul.
Turks are soccer mad, with games regularly attended by tens of thousands of boisterous fans. But at this game, between host Kartalspor and Ankara’s Gazi Universitesispor, the 22 players on the field outnumbered the people shivering in the stands.
The weather was probably not to blame for the poor attendance; it was more likely because of who was playing. The two teams are part of Turkey’s new women’s soccer league, and although Turks may be soccer fanatics, there is a deep ambivalence in this socially conservative, predominantly Muslim society about women playing the game.
Halfway through its 18-game inaugural season, the league has met a combination of indifference, curiosity and occasional hostility.
“Football is seen as a man’s game in Turkey,” said Nurper Ozbar, 30, the coach of Marmara Universitesispor, the top team in the second division of the league, which also has two youth divisions.
“We’ve had men come to watch our practices and yell at our players: ‘What are you doing here? You should be at home, cooking!’ ” said Ozbar, one of the few women accredited as a soccer coach in Turkey, and the only one in Istanbul. “It’s going to take time to change this.”
Turkey has thriving professional women’s basketball and volleyball leagues. Soccer, for the most part, remains a men’s-only zone. In a country of 70 million, only 798 women and girls are registered as players with the Turkish Football Federation, soccer’s governing body. In comparison, about 230,000 male players are registered with the federation.
For the players in the women’s league, just finding their way to a team can be a monumental challenge. Deniz Bicer, a midfielder with Gazi Universitesispor, the only women’s team in the Turkish capital, Ankara, has to travel almost two hours each way to get to practice.
“In my neighborhood, because it was seen as a man’s game, there was pressure on me and my family that I not play football,” the 18-year-old Bicer said after Gazi’s 3-1 victory over Kartalspor.
“People kept telling me this is a man’s game, you should be interested in other sports, but football is a passion for me,” she said.
The new league is Turkey’s second attempt at establishing women’s soccer. An amateur league of about two dozen teams existed in Turkey for a decade until it was shut down in 2002 amid allegations of mismanagement and rumors of affairs between female players — particularly scandalous in this country.
This time around, the Turkish federation appears intent on promoting the idea of women’s and girls’ soccer to a skeptical nation.
“A lot of our work is public relations, to convince families that girls can play football,” said Erden Or, 33, the federation’s development officer for women’s soccer.
“Some believe that playing football can harm a girl’s build and make her manly,” Or said.
“They believe that it’s a man’s game, so we have to show them proof that they can play football without a problem,” added Or, whose wife chides him for kicking the ball around with their 3-year-old daughter.
Or has been crisscrossing Turkey, staging panel discussions in different cities with coaches and female players and answering questions from worried parents and resistant physical education teachers. When he finds out about a girl whose parents refuse to let her play soccer, Or said, he phones them to help ease their minds.
“If she wants to play, I will call them directly, like a father inquiring about a bride,” he said.
Selling women’s soccer also requires dolling it up. One of the new logos for the league features a slender woman’s hand with long, red-painted fingernails cupping a soccer ball. The background on Or’s computer screen is a photograph of a soccer cleat with a stiletto heel.

She Shoots, She Scores..

Skirting religion and convention, Turkish women are taking to the soccer pitch.

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Out on the field she’s skilled: She deftly maneuvers the ball across the field, and her coach describes her as a solid teammate. But for Cansu Topcu, a key player on Marmara University’s women’s soccer team, indulging her passion for soccer requires more than just talent and training.
In Turkey, soccer is unequivocally seen as a male domain. Female teams are anomalous. In a country of 70 million, only 798 women and girls are registered as players with the Turkish Football Federation, compared to about 230,000 registered men.
Their opportunities to train and play are just as rare. Just to get to practice, Topcu must undertake a two-hour trek into Istanbul’s sprawling metropolis where her team meets.
And it's not just the commute that makes playing difficult. In predominantly Muslim Turkey, the idea of a woman playing soccer tends to attract reactions ranging from sarcasm to disbelief. In all of soccer-mad Europe — which in sporting terms, broadly encompasses Turkey — Turkey and Albania are the only two countries without a professional women's league.
“My parents don’t like that I play. They worry that I will get hurt and they don’t see a future for me in soccer,” Topcu said. “But it clears my head, I like it so much. I’m going to keep playing.”
Topcu is the advance guard of Turkey’s new women’s soccer league, itself a response to the rising global popularity of women's soccer and to pressure from European organizations looking to increase female participation in the sport.
Still in its 18-game inaugural season, the league must contend with significant cultural and financial obstacles.
“Many people believe that football [the European term for soccer] changes the postures of the girls, that it makes girls act like men and that only ugly girls play football,” said Erden Or, the federation’s development officer for women’s soccer. “We try to break these myths."
Or and his team have been crisscrossing Turkey, leading panel discussions in different cities with coaches and female players, and working to alleviate the most pressing financial limitations for new teams by providing free equipment and helping with transportation costs to games.
This is not the first attempt to promote women’s soccer in Turkey. In the 1990s a professional women's league existed in Turkey and lasted a decade. The league was dissolved in 2003 amid allegations of mismanagement and sexual impropriety. Stories of affairs between female players were especially scandalous in Turkey, where social values are conservative.

By: Nichole Sobecki

Source: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/turkey/090429/turkey-football-womens

Getting Muslim Women into the Swim of Things

While I’m sure some Islamophobes will see this as another sign of encroaching ‘dhimmitude’, I think this story, reported by Italian news agency AKI, to be an interesting step. It reports about a swimming pool in Italy that reserves special times for Muslim women, banning men. The pool is owned by a Catholic church diocese, thus is private. It has no policy implications beyond the church policy of encouraging ecumenism. It has the additional positive aspect of introducing Muslim women—many of whom have no experience with swimming—to a sport and, for some, new job possibilities.
Italy: Muslim women allowed to swim in private
Bergamo, 30 April (AKI) - Muslim women in the northern Italian province of Bergamo now have private access to a local swimming pool where they can swim freely without traditional clothing. Men are not permitted to swim at the Siloe pool when the women remove their veils, or burquas, at designated times each week, according to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera.
Maida Ziaradi, an Iranian who has lived in Italy for 17 years spearheaded the move and said many Muslim women from Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and Egypt as well as Italians can take advantage of it.
The pool is owned by the diocese of Bergamo and the arrangement with the Muslim women is seen as a form of ecumenical respect for the Koran.


Pakistan women’s hockey on verge of collapse: sources

LAHORE: Politics and vested interests of individuals have brought Pakistan women’s hockey on the brink of calamity, sources told Daily Times Friday on the condition of anonymity. “Ever since present Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) women wing’s general secretary Ms Parveen Gill got involved with the affairs of women’s hockey in 1978, the game has not only gone to the dogs but it is almost non-existent now,” sources claimed.
They said Ms Parveen was the municipal corporation lady sweepers supervisor before she made her way into PHF women’s wing ‘courtesy of her political connections’. “She won the local government councilor elections and wasting little time, formed an alliance with then Queen Mary College principal Ms SA Khan to remove then women’s wing secretary Ms Parveen Atif from the designation. She made Ms SA Khan women’s wing president and herself the secretary to begin a journey of ‘political hockey’ that spans more than 30 years to date.”
Sources said Ms Parveen was ‘notorious’ for her politics and all she had done in the last 30 years was to somehow break or make up with people in order to keep her authority intact at the expense of Pakistan women hockey. “Officials close to her have always been non-technical individuals with little knowledge of the sport and who have been helping her on the way as she left Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) for Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) in order to climb up the political ladder,” alleged sources.
They further said that there was no accountability for Ms Parveen’s actions as she kept on appointing dummy regional presidents and handed over women’s wing positions to relatives and friends, especially those school principals, who provided school transport and fake audience for so-called domestic matches. “Such individuals then always accompany her, as a return favour, on foreign tours where repeatedly the Pakistan women’s team gets thrashed by huge goal margins. Yet Ms Parveen and the officials make sure that they do all their shopping and enjoy their trip to the fullest.” It is pertinent to mention that the International Hockey Federation (FIH) gives development grant and affiliation to those member countries that have a women’s hockey team alongside the men’s team. “Therefore, the PHF is least bothered about the women’s wing and only wants its presence on paper, having allowed the women’s wing affairs to get ruined for the last three decades by Ms Parveen’s ‘one-woman show’.”
Sources asked questions: “Why the women’s wing secretary, whose tenure ended in 2006 after getting elected in 2002, is still in power? According to which law does she participate in Pakistan hockey council and general body meetings? Why the women’s wing elections have been delayed for so long?”


Italy: Muslim women allowed to swim in private

Bergamo, 30 April (AKI) - Muslim women in the northern Italian province of Bergamo now have private access to a local swimming pool where they can swim freely without traditional clothing. Men are not permitted to swim at the Siloe pool when the women remove their veils, or burquas, at designated times each week, according to the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera.
Maida Ziaradi, an Iranian who has lived in Italy for 17 years spearheaded the move and said many Muslim women from Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and Egypt as well as Italians can take advantage of it. The pool is owned by the diocese of Bergamo and the arrangement with the Muslim women is seen as a form of ecumenical respect for the Koran.
"At the beginning several (women) were hesitant and fearful," Ziaradi said."One had never swum before, others made a remarkable effort exposing their legs, one was terrified of the water and now doesn't miss a lesson."
Italy is not the first country to introduce designated swimming for Muslim women. In Germany the burqua can be worn in some public swimming pools, while in Australia some public pools have specific timetables for Muslim women.
Mecca Laalaa, a 22 year-old Australian is the first Muslim woman to become a volunteer surf life saver, wearing a specially designed costume or 'burkini'.
The burkini that completely covers the body and head, leaving the face exposed.