Muslim Women in Sports: Lida Fariman and Manije Kazemi, of Iran - A Question of Clothing

Lida Fariman competed in the Olympics (1992, 1996) as a shooter, but wore the traditional Islamic robe and hijab (head-cover). In the Australian Olympics (2000), Manije Kazemi also competed while wearing traditional Iranian clothing. But for other Muslim women, competition has been more difficult. Hassiba Boulmerka of Algeria won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters race at the Barcelona Games of 1996, competing in a standard runner's outfit. Her victory caused a Muslim preacher in Algeria to denounce (criticize, condemn) those who "dare display (show off) their nudity before the whole world." Death threats followed. Boulmerka became an outcast, afraid to return to her own country.
The dress required for women athletes "is a serious matter and we as Muslim countries and even non-Muslim countries must put emphasis on Muslim ladies in sport," said Hashemi, daughter of a former Iranian president and who is now vice president of Iran's national Olympic committee. She noted that several Muslim nations had no women athletes on their teams at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and 1996 Atlanta Games. She recommended that the IOC (International Olympic Committee) change the dress codes to allow more Muslim women to compete with more covering on their bodies. "Muslim women are ignored because of their moralities as stated in their religion. There are 500 million Muslim women in the world, one-fourth of the world's female population, who cannot do sport in the existing conditions. What is the problem with having competitions in accordance with our conditions?" (Quoted in Coolrunning. Also see Win Magazine, "Veiled Jocks")

Iranian women's Olympic teams have been selected for canoeing, shooting, and table tennis. These are all the competitions where women are permitted to wear uniforms that match the Islamic dress code. Should Muslim women be excluded from sports if they refuse to wear modern sports clothes? Should there be separate competitions for women which men may not observe? These are some of the questions that face Muslim women from conservative countries, such as Arabia, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Like most Muslim women from Iran, Lida Fariman prays five times a day and keeps her head and body covered with a hood and a long dress wherever she goes, even to the Olympic shooting range.

Source: http://www.sfusd.edu/schwww/sch618/Sports/Sports5.html