Lack of fan support for Safina a mystery

Dinara Safina may be missing out on a large fan base because many in this part of the world are unaware she is a Muslim or simply don’t care. Both attitudes are based on some serious fault lines.
Now, I know all about keeping religion away from sport and that sports stars should be appreciated for what they do on the court and not on the basis of what faith they belong to. But in Safina’s case I don’t mind sticking my head out and ask some tough questions.
The lack of adulation for Safina is strange and incomprehensible for the simple reason that the Muslim world is so desperately short of women role models.
When Moroccan male tennis players such as Younes el-Aynaoui – a winner in Doha – and Hicham Arazi were regulars at the Qatar Open, fans packed the stands to cheer their every shot. But when Safina plays there’s hardly a ripple of excitement. It’s a question that demands serious answers. Is this because Safina is a woman, one is tempted to ask.
Safina and her brother Marat Safin are the only brother-sister pair to have risen to the top of the rankings and in all these years as a journalist I have not come across any article highlighting this fact. Even some of my Muslim colleagues in the Arabic media seem unaware.
Safina is of Tatar descent whose parents run a tennis club in Moscow. But Safina’s situation has only worked out to her advantage, especially if compared with that of India’s Sania Mirza’s.
Mirza has been a victim of excessive fan adulation and media interest ever since she started playing the game. Her short skirts and tight t-shirts made as much news as her tennis and obscure clerics used the situation to gain cheap publicity. If my memory serves me right, one even issued a fatwa against her.Mirza though has dealt with the situation remarkably well, her sharp wit and intelligence sparkling through at press conferences whenever she is asked questions related to her faith.
Perhaps Safina is not media savvy, perhaps it’s because she has described herself as a non-practicing Muslim. But even then, she deserves better.
Source: http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=323263&version=1&template_id=49&parent_id=29

Muslim women's sports foundation score with football grant

THE Muslim Women's Sports Foundation (MWSF) is celebrating following a £235k grant awarded by the Football Foundation, the UK's largest sports charity.

The grant will allow the the group to embark on the the Born to Succeed project - a three year plan aiming to increase the number of black, minority ethnic women in sport.

The MWSF hopes to provide facilities and support that take into consideration religious and cultural sensitivities of black, minority ethnic women - by developing a number of futsal and basketball clubs, introducing summer and year-round leagues, engaging in school outreach programmes, conducting research projects and in recruiting and training volunteers, coaches and referees.

It will also allow increasing access to player pathways, promoting healthy living in the community, providing alternative social activities in mainstream society, promoting cohesion and understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, and developing role models for future generations of women.

Chairperson of the MWSF, Rimla Akhtar said: "The fact is that there are many Muslim women in this country who love to play sport and compete - this enthusiasm has been made clear in the work we have carried out so far.

"However, there has been a definite lack of funding and resources such as facilities - that cater for the needs of groups like MWSF.

"This grant, we believe, is the first of its kind and will enable the MWSF to build a foundation on which future generations of minority ethnic women can grow and succeed when it comes to sport. It is only the beginning of a much larger effort to develop healthy and confident women and girls in the UK.

"We thank the Football Foundation for leading the way in supporting the sporting development of this unique group of women and girls."

The launch of the Born to Succeed project will take place on tomorrow (31 October 2009) at the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, Queen's Drive, Acton , between 10 to 11.15 am.
Source: http://www.theasiannews.co.uk/sport/s/1180021_muslim_womens_sports_foundation_score_with_football_grant


Female wrestlers a break from the usual

In the Turkish Language Institute's (TDK) dictionary, the word "pehlivan" is defined as "someone who is tall and strong."
So, when you hear the word "pehlivan," that may be all that comes to mind, but you should know that "pehlivan" also means wrestler.
Now for a word of advice: Forget everything you ever imagined when thinking of Turkish wrestlers who are tall and strong -- because these days the wrestling mats of Turkey are bringing forth a whole new generation of wrestlers who may just erase any preconceived notions you have about the sport. Yes, with their small size and delicate bodies, these wrestlers might not look strong, but when you see them grab their competitors from the waist to flip them onto their backs, you may think your eyes are deceiving you. Who are we talking about here exactly? The women's national wrestling team.
Don't be too surprised by the idea of a female wrestler in Turkey. You must watch them train; we admit that we were a bit shocked by the idea until we ourselves watched a training session. Watching these delicate wrestlers practice their sport reinforced the phrase "strong like a Turk" in our minds. It is also interesting to note that these wrestlers are quite feminine outside the ring: They keep up with fashion, wear high heels when they want and some of them wear makeup.
And never mind that the 2009 World Wrestling Championships, held last month in Denmark, didn't bring them the results they had been looking for. After all, a number of the female wrestlers they were up against started wrestling before some of the Turkish team had even been born. It's expected that as this Turkish team gains experience, its success rate will rise, too. The team is now training for the 2011 World Wrestling Championships, which will be held in İstanbul, and they aim to return from the 2012 London Olympics with a gold medal.
She was headed for gymnastics, but wound up wrestling
We met these women at the Mimar Sinan Hall in Edirne, the Turkish city that has contributed the most wrestlers to the Turkish team, where we spoke with 21-year-old Burcu Özkaya, who has just returned from the championships in Denmark. Özkaya is a sophomore at Trakya University's physical education department, and she explained that she met the wrestling coach who would change her future eight years ago, at a sporting arena where she was competing in a gymnastics competition. Özkaya decided to try wrestling when the coach told her he was forming a new wrestling team and invited her to try out. Özkaya was only 13 at the time, and her family was very much opposed to this; her father, who insisted that wrestling was a sport only for boys, even forbade her from going to training sessions.
So Özkaya wound up sneaking out of her home to train, and it was only when she placed well in a competition that her father became convinced that wrestling can be a sport for girls as well. What's more, now Özkaya is able to help support her family financially, as she receives a TL 540 monthly grant from the state, a TL 450 Olympics payment and TL 250 a month from her sports club. Özkaya is quite optimistic about her chances in the upcoming Olympics, even though she was beaten by a Belarusian competitor at the previous Olympics through what she said was her own fault.
Female wrestlers have a rather tough training schedule. They train six days a week for two hours a day. The training sessions begin with conditioning exercises and then go through many of the difficult moves that typify wrestling, such as flips and fakes. The young athletes admit that if it were not for their basic love of the sport, they would never endure the difficulty of their training sessions. The sheer strenuousness of what they go through on a daily basis is demonstrated by the fact that they often lose up to two kilograms in one training session! They of course their diets include nutrient supplements and lots of vegetables and fruits to make up for what they lose.
At camp, I used to cry because I missed my mother
Of course, the physical aspect of being a wrestler on the national team is not the only difficult one. There are also many psychological barriers to overcome. One of the youngest members on the team is 15-year-old Sinem Topçu, who explained some of what she has been through. When she started wrestling five years ago, Topçu would go to training camp and have a horrible time missing her mother. Now she smiles as she recalls that experience, though she also noted that at the time, some of her friends actually ran away from camp because they missed their homes so much.
‘I have seen so many countries, one for each of my years!'
We also spoke with Dilek Atakol, a 51-kilogram wrestler who participated in the 2008 European Wrestling Championships. Atakol is 21 years old and started wrestling eight years ago upon the advice of her friend and teammate, Özkaya. Atakol is supported by her family and studies at Kocatepe University's physical education department. She believes that girls should definitely take up an interest in at least one kind of sport, no matter what it is. She attributes her healthy lifestyle and eating habits to wrestling.
The young athlete is also thankful for the travel opportunities she has had thanks to wrestling. "While lots of young people my age have never been outside the country, I've seen one country for each of my years," she said. She also pointed out that she receives tremendous support from her classmates at school; in fact, they are some of her loudest and most supportive fans at tournaments. She said she has never encountered jokes poking fun at her choice of sport.
Melek Atakol is Dilek's younger sister, and she has been on the team for six years now. She noted that female wrestlers do not only wear sports clothing, but are interested in fashion and love wearing makeup and high heels, too, when they are not "on the mats," wrestling opponents. She said she is annoyed by people who claim that girls who wrestle have to live with the fear that they'll never marry. "It's so early to even think about marriage for us. But of course, when the time comes, we'll no doubt all get married. After all, we all dream of wearing a white wedding gown one day," she said.
German wrestler who wants to become Muslim
This team makes great friendships with female wrestlers from other countries that they meet at foreign tournaments. Leyla Ertaş, 19, who has been wrestling for six years, said her greatest joy is maintaining e-mail and MSN communications with her friends from abroad. She told us that a German female wrestler she met has been asking her question about Islam via e-mail and has told her she too wants to become Muslim.
A brand new phenomenon
The whole concept of women's wrestling is still quite new to Turkey. Turkey started competing in international women's wrestling competitions for the first time in 1998 and in the past 10 years has produced two world champions. The age range of this young Turkish team is between 15 and 25 years old, and one of their biggest problems is simply finding suitable partners for team members to train against. At times these wrestlers actually wind up having to train against competitors who are much heavier than them. And often at international competitions, they go up against teams that are much older and experienced than they are. “At some championships, we face teams whose members are 35 years old, and who have 20 years or so of experience. In other words, some of us had not even been born yet when our competitors started wrestling," Özkaya explained.
There are also some technical deficiencies in the Turkish national women's wrestling team. For instance, there are not enough weights for the wrestlers to work with, and sometimes they are forced to train on judo mats rather than wrestling mats. Still though, one piece of great news on the horizon is that soon this team will be able to train and use the facilities provided by Edirne's Wrestling Training Center, which is set to open soon.
Source: http://www.sundayszaman.com/sunday/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=189497

Exercise Tailored to a Hijab by Abby Ellin

THE first time Julia Shearson rode her bike after converting to Islam seven years ago, her headscarf became stuck in the wheel.
She lost her balance, and by the time she got going again she was met with stares as she whizzed along, arms and legs draped in loose clothing, her scarf billowing in the breeze.
“You have to overcome the looks,” said Ms. Shearson, 43, the executive director of the Cleveland chapter of the Council on American-Islam Relations. “It’s already hard enough to exercise, and if you look different ... it’s even harder.”
As a Muslim woman in the United States, Ms. Shearson has found it difficult to stay fit while adhering to her religious principles about modesty. Islam does not restrict women from exercising — in fact all Muslims are urged to take care of their bodies through healthy eating and exercise — but women face a special set of challenges in a culture of co-ed gyms and skimpy workout wear.
Many pious Muslim women in the United States, like Ms. Shearson, wear hijab in public, loose garments that cover their hair and body, which can hinder movement and add to discomfort during exercise. Women may show their hair, arms and legs up to the knees in front of other women.
Muslim women are often limited in their choice of activity, as well. Some believe that certain yoga chants, for example, are forbidden, as well as certain poses like sun salutations (Muslims are supposed to worship only Allah). For the sake of modesty, working out around men is discouraged.
That modesty can be a benefit and a liability. On the one hand, Muslim women are spared some of the body-image issues that other women face; on the other, that freedom can be a detriment to their physical well-being.
“We don’t have the external motivation that non-Muslim women have,” said Mubarakha Ibrahim, 33, a certified personal trainer and owner of Balance fitness in New Haven, a personal training studio catering to women. “There is no little black dress to fit into, no bathing suit. When you pass through a mirror or glass you’re not looking to see ‘Is my tummy tucked in? Do I look good in these jeans?’ You’re looking to see if you’re covered.”
After gaining 50 pounds while pregnant with her first child, Ms. Ibrahim studied exercise and nutrition, and became certified through the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America. In 2006 she opened her studio, which offers a safe environment for women to exercise (she says she has more orthodox Jewish clients, who also adhere to rules of modesty).
Ms. Ibrahim said she would like to see exercise become as natural a part of a Muslim woman’s life as praying.
In July, about 120 women from around the country attended Ms. Ibrahim’s third annual Fit Muslimah Health and Fitness Summit in New Haven. She offered yoga, kickboxing, water aerobics and core conditioning classes alongside workshops on weight loss, nutrition, cancer prevention and diabetes at the two-day, women-only event. She plans to hold another one in Atlanta in February.
“An important part of your spirituality is your health,” said Tayyibah Taylor, publisher of Azizah, a magazine for Muslim women, and co-sponsor of the summit meeting. “You can’t really consider yourself in good health if all parts of your being are not healthy — your body, your mind and your soul. It’s a complete package.”
This is especially true now, during Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting from dawn until sunset. “The Muslim prayer is the most physical prayer — the sitting, bowing, bending,” said Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. “The physicality of our prayer forces us to create flexibility in our body.”
But how to mix one’s physical and spiritual needs with practicality? Some Muslim-Americans go to women-only gyms like Curves, which has thousands of branches across the country. And some gyms and Y.M.C.A.’s offer gender-segregated areas, hours or days.
Other women, like Umm Sahir Ameer, a 27-year-old student in Shaker Heights, Ohio, take matters into their own hands. Last year, Ms. Ameer started the Muslimah Strive Running-Walking Group so she and 12 of her friends could exercise together.
“I wanted to establish this group as a way to further unite Muslim women in my community while gaining physical endurance,” she said.
Those who do work out in co-ed gyms have learned to make accommodations in their clothing. Loretta Riggs, 40, an educational coach in Pittsburgh, started exercising two years ago after divorcing her husband. She wears a scarf made of spandex, long-sleeved Under Armour shirts and Adidas or Puma pants.
“Some women don’t think you should be working out in a co-ed gym,” she said, “but I’m around men all the time in my workplace, when I take my kids to the park, when I walk outside.”
She added: “Why would I deprive myself of being healthy because I am a Muslim and I choose to cover? It’s very important to take care of myself.”
Mariam Abdelgawad, 21, a math teacher in San Jose, Calif., said that in high school she played hockey, soccer and ran track and field, all while wearing hijab.
But today she works out at home, since there are no female-only gyms in her neighborhood. Her parents, with whom she lives, have a treadmill, elliptical machine and Pilates equipment, as well as weights. She exercises about three times a week, but said she missed the camaraderie of the gym.
Though working out at home is convenient, she said, it is also very easy to procrastinate and not do it. “I don’t have all the options that a gym would have,” she said.
Swimming also poses problems. Although some Muslim women have been known to hop in the water in their street clothes, this can be cumbersome for a workout. The burqini — a one-piece outfit that resembles a scuba wet suit — has received a lot of attention in recent months (most notably in France, where a young woman was banned from wearing one at a pool), but it tends to be too form-fitting for some women.
“I tried it once, and it sticks to your body,” said Marwa Abdelhaleem, a 26-year-old teacher in Toronto who started a female-only swimming group to avoid the burqini question. “It’s really fitted. I wouldn’t wear it in public.”
Ms. Ibrahim, however, is more focused on the private.
“One of the ideas I promote is that when you are married and you take off your clothing, your husband should not be like, ‘You should put this back on,’ ” Ms. Ibrahim said. “Even if you wear a burqa, you should be bikini-ready. You should feel comfortable and sexy in your own skin.”
WORKING OUT Mubarakha Ibrahim, left, and her sister, Fawziyyah Umrani, at a recent exercise session in New Haven
By: Abby Ellin
Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/10/health/nutrition/10fitness.html?_r=2


Enlightened taekwondo encourages Muslim women

16 September, 2009 -- The World Taekwondo Federation’s (WTF) enlightened policy of encouraging women’s participation will be highlighted during next month’s World Taekwondo Championships when Muslim women who are obliged to wear a hijab (head scarf) in public will be among about 400 female competitors from more than 140 countries.
WTF competition rules were formally changed earlier this year to allow the hijab. Mr. Dae Won Moon, Chairman of the WTF Technical Committee, said: “The decision allowing the wearing of hijabs in taekwondo tournaments, including during the Olympic Games, is motivating Muslim women who have strong religious beliefs to take a more active part in the sport and the Olympic movement.
“This measure means that taekwondo is one of the few sports that treats women and men equally in the Muslim world. We believe that our respect for others’ cultures and beliefs will allow taekwondo to enhance its status as an Olympic sport.”
The issue of sportswomen who wish to wear Islamic attire was highlighted by a number of women competing in the Beijing Olympic Games last year. Among them was taekwondo athlete Ms. Sara Khosh Jamal, the first female Olympian in the history of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ms. Jamal reached the quarterfinals of the under 49kg competition.
Ms Jamal said: “When I qualified for the Olympic Games, I was ecstatic. I wanted to show the whole world that Iranian women could do anything. It was a great feeling to know that I was the first woman in my country’s history to actually qualify. I felt so proud to be an Iranian Muslim woman.”
Developing women’s participation is part of a wide-ranging reform program put in place over the past five years, driven by WTF President Chungwon Choue. As a result, the number of female taekwondo participants worldwide – particularly Muslims – is growing rapidly. Today, some 20 million women worldwide practice taekwondo and President Choue expects this to reach 30 million in 4 years.
Ms. Myriam Baverel, of France, a taekwondo silver medalist at the Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and WTF Council Member, said: “Martial arts and combat sports have historically been the preserve of male athletes, yet taekwondo has become a symbol of equality on the international scene. For example, in France 35% of taekwondo practitioners are women, and taekwondo is in the top five women’s sports.
“It is true that it can seem more difficult for women to take the physical knocks of taekwondo. But what drives these sportswomen is the pursuit of excellence in their sport – and in that we are no different from men.”
The World Taekwondo Championships will take place from 14-18 October in Copenhagen,
Rules change welcomes wearing of hijab
*Taekwondo promotes equality and respect
*Rapid rise in female practitioners
*Commitment to women’s development continues
Source: http://www.aroundtherings.com/articles/view.aspx?id=33194

Research findings from The British University in Dubai shared at global sporting congress

Two major research findings relating to women in sport and physical education inclusion in GCC schools from The British University in Dubai (BUiD), and its UK affiliate, University of Birmingham, were presented at a global sports conference addressing women in sport.
The 16th International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women (IAPESGW) World Congress that recently took place in South Africa aims to support and bring together interested professionals from around the world who are working in the fields of physical education, dance, and sport.
Collaborative work by Dr. Eman Gaad, Senior Lecturer in Education at BUiD, and Dr. Tansin Benn from the University of Birmingham, a BUiD partner, was presented at the conference, which focused on improving opportunities for Muslim girls and women to participate in physical education, and a comparative study on inclusion in physical education and sports in GCC schools.
"It is a great honour to be able to contribute to IAPESGW's mission to promote the interests of girls and women at all levels and in all areas of physical education. The Middle East is a region that has seen improvement in the field of women in sport but there is still a lot we can do to support and encourage women of all ages and abilities to have an interest in sport,"
said Dr. Eman Gaad, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, The British University in Dubai.
The findings included ways to improve opportunities for female Muslims to participate in sporting activity. Other outcomes included the Routledge International Series book, "Muslim Women in Sport and Physical Education," to which Dr. Gaad contributed, and will be published in 2010. The book is co-edited by Dr. Tansin Benn from BUiD university partner, the University of Birmingham in the UK.
"Through our strong and longstanding partnership with BUiD, we are able to help build on the studies of women in sport in an area like the Middle East, which little is known about the subject. We have seen a lot of talent and potential and with our close links and academic successes, we aim is to continue to promote and support the highly gifted women athletes in the region and integrate a strong sporting culture into schools and the community at large," said Tansin Benn, Associate Professor, University of Birmingham.
Dr. Gaad and Dr. Benn also contributed to a second presentation highlighting a study on "Gender and Disability Inclusion in the Field of Physical Education in Schools and Teacher Training across the GCC Countries".
Research participants also included Dr. Yousra Al-Sinani from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, and Dr. Mona Al-Ansari from the University of Bahrain. The presentation broke new ground and was well received in the international context where so little is known about the subject and experiences of girls and women in the Gulf area.
University of Birmingham is one of the first partner universities to work with BUiD on its educational programmes. The Faculty of Education at BUiD provides modern and innovative programmes to support the development needs of the education system in the UAE, the Gulf and the wider Middle/Far Eastern context. It brings together experienced teachers from wide ethnic, cultural and educational backgrounds to allow them to examine modern educational theories and approaches under the guidance of expert staff.
This allows the participants to reflect on their own educational contexts, to examine the latest international research findings, and to use this process to develop as individual teachers and as future managers of education.
Source: http://www.ameinfo.com/209483.html