Qatar women hope to make history at 2012 Olympics

DOHA: Three weeks before the Arab Games in Doha, Qatari sports officials called Nada Mohammed Wafa to tell her she would be competing in the Middle East's biggest sporting event.

Surprised - and a bit scared - the 17-year-old swimmer replied: "Oh wow! Sure!"

Wafa, who had only competed in school-level events until then, trained hard to make up for the short time she had before making history by becoming the first woman on Qatar's national swim team.

"It's a good feeling, but it's also very lonely," Wafa said. "It's just me, myself and I."

Wafa may be Qatar's lone female swimmer, but she is part of a group of emerging athletes in the conservative Muslim country that hopes to send women to the Olympics for the first time in London next year.

And if Wafa's phone rings in five months or somebody confirms her name is on the list, she would be delighted to go and compete.

"I'd be over the moon," Wafa said.

Along with Saudi Arabia and Brunei, Qatar has never sent female athletes to the Olympics. Last year, the International Olympic Committee urged the three countries to end the practice of sending all-male teams to the games, hoping that naming and shaming would do more for female athletes than banning their nations from the Olympics.

While Saudi Arabia's plans to send women to the London Games remain wrapped in secrecy, Qatar is feverishly working to escape the stigma that comes with failing to include women.

Over the past decade, the tiny but rich Gulf country has been targeting sports as a vehicle to showcase its global aspirations. Last year, it became the first Arab country to win the right to host the World Cup in 2022. And Qatar's bid for the 2020 Olympics adds the pressure to include women on the teams in London.

Qatar Olympic Committee president Sheik Saoud bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said female athletes have been competing in international tournaments for the past three years, including last year's Youth Olympics in Singapore.

The only reason women were not included for the 2008 Beijing Games is because they didn't qualify in any sport, Sheik Saoud said. He added that Qatar is talking to the IOC about sending female athletes to the games next year on wild-card invitations.

"That's the thing with the Olympics. They can't go if they don't qualify," Sheik Saoud said. "It's not about us being unwilling to send women to the tournament. But it takes time to prepare athletes to compete on the international level."

It also takes time to change mindsets in a deeply conservative society. Qatar follows the Wahhabi branch of Islam, a strict version that predominates in Saudi Arabia.

There are no written laws in Qatar - or Saudi Arabia - that ban and restrict women from participating in sports. Rather, the stigma of female athletes is rooted in conservative traditions and religious views that hold giving freedom of movement to women would make them vulnerable to sins.

Unlike in Saudi Arabia, where women are still banned from driving, much has changed in Qatar since the country began an ambitious process of opening up to the world, largely through hosting high-profile sporting events in tennis, soccer, and track and field.

But getting women to compete in Qatar is quite a different thing than sending then to compete abroad.

"It's unusual in this culture," said Hana al-Badr, a 20-year-old handball player who has seen the change since she joined Qatar's first female handball team four years ago. "My teachers and my friends in school use to look at me and say, 'You are a girl and you are traveling to play outside? How can your family let you?' But now it's become normal."

Wafa, the swimmer, didn't win any medals at the Arab Games but succeeded in improving her times.

She beat her best in the 50-meter breast stroke by 3 seconds and missed the finals by a second. She also improved her time in the 50 freestyle by a second, beat her personal best in the 100 breast stroke by 15 seconds and was happy with her time of 1 minute, 10 seconds in the 100 freestyle.

"It was amazing experience," Wafa said. "I had so little time to train, but I finished seconds away from champions. I am so happy with my results."

Qatar has invested heavily in women's sports over the past decade, introducing special programs for girls in school and organizing training camps at home and abroad for female athletes with talent and ambition to compete on the international level.

In the past three years, al-Badr and her teammates played in three international tournaments, including last year's Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, where 90 Qatari women competed in a half-dozen disciplines.

Qatar also started a six-team women's soccer league last year and hosted a Gulf basketball tournament. The shining moment for Qatar's female athletes came at last year's inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, where two qualified to compete.

"It's a big challenge for us," said Lolwah al-Marri, the general secretary of Qatar's Olympic committee who is charged with developing sports for women. "When we started, families were concerned for the girls' safety and were afraid people would start talking badly about their daughters."

The focus 10 years ago was on building women's team sports, but by December 2011, when Doha was hosting the Arab Games, 40 percent of the Qatari delegation were women, competing in volleyball and basketball and eight individual sports, including gymnastics and swimming.

"The dress code is a big problem in these sports," al-Marri said.

There are signs, however, that the times when families in the desert nation of 1.6 million kept their women confined to the home are receding into the past.

"It's not an issue, the dress," said Shaden Wahdan, a 16-year-old gymnast.

One of the costumes she wore at the Youth Olympics will one day be on display at an Olympic Museum that Qatar plans to open, Wahdan said. She is the first woman to have competed for Qatar in an Olympic event last year.

"I don't really care what people think. I want to compete and win medals," Wahdan said during this month's Arab Games, the region's biggest multi-sports event.

And win medals she did: two golds, one on the floor and another in the beam. She also was awarded two silver medals and a bronze, a tally that definitely boosted her chances of going to the London Games.

"It would be such a great experience," Wahdan said.

Saudi Arabia's 18-year-old equestrian athlete, Dalma Rushdi Malhas, was the first woman to compete internationally for the ultra-conservative kingdom. She won a bronze medal at the Singapore Youth Olympics.

Sticking to tradition, Saudi Arabia sent an all-male team to the Arab Games, but local media have reported that Riyadh might send Malhas to the London Games to avoid criticism.

Women's rights organizations - and some IOC members - say Saudi Arabia should be banned from the Olympics for excluding women.

"Dalma is being used as a token woman they want to send to London to avoid being banned," said Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Washington-based Institute of Gulf Affairs that has been behind the "No Women No Play" campaign that advocates the Saudi Olympic ban.

Qatari sports officials say it is unfair to lump their nation with Saudi Arabia. Many credit Sheika Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, Qatar's first lady and a campaigner for women's empowerment, for successfully conveying the message to society that sports can be good for girls.

"Going to the games is not an issue in Qatar. Changing mindsets is," said Noora al-Mannai, the CEO of Doha's 2020 Olympic bid, adding that Doha will in the next three years open a high-performance training center for female athletes from all over the region.

"It's happening," al-Mannai said, "but changes take time and I am sure that by the time Olympics come to Doha, there will be many female athletes who qualify to compete."
Source: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/sports/events-tournaments/london-olympics/Qatar-women-hope-to-make-history-at-2012-Olympics/articleshow/11213673.cms?prtpage=1

French Women Groups Protest FIFA Decision To Endorse Hijab – Analysis

Written by: James M. Dorsey

Three French women’s organizations have expressed concern and disappointment with world soccer body FIFA’s endorsement of a proposal to lift the ban on women players wearing a hijab, an Islamic hair dress, on the pitch.

“To accept a special dress code for women athletes not only introduces discrimination among athletes but is contrary to the rules governing sport movement, setting a same dress code for all athletes without regard to origin or belief,” the three organizations said in an open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter.

Anne Sugier, president of the League of International Women’s Rights (LDIF) founded by Simone de Beauvoire, said in an email that she had sent the letter together with the heads of FEMIX’SPORTS and the French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby, following publication on December 19 of the FIFA executive committee decision in The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.

FIFA endorsed at its December 16-17 executive committee meeting in Tokyo the proposal to lift a controversial ban on women wearing a hijab in a move that brings closer a resolution to demands by religious female Islamic soccer players that they be allowed to wear a headdress in line with their interpretation of their faith.

FIFA said it would submit the proposal put forward by Asian Football Confederation (AFC) vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a half-brother of Jordanian King Abdullah, to the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which governs the rules of association soccer.

IFAB is expected to discuss the proposal that calls for the sanctioning of a safe, velcro-opening headscarf for players and officials at its next scheduled meeting on March 3. England alongside FIFA, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland form the secretive IFAB.

The FIFA endorsement follows an earlier approval of the AFC proposal that resulted from a workshop convened in October in Amman by Prince Ali that was attended by prominent soccer executives, women players and coaches, including head of FIFA’s medical committee Michel D’Hooghe, AFC vice president Moya Dodd, members of FIFA’s women committee and representatives of the soccer bodies of Jordan, Bahrain, Iran and England.

The dispute over observant Muslim women player’s headdress led in June to the disqualification of the Iranian women’s national team after they appeared on the pitch in the Jordanian capital Amman for a 2012 London Olympics qualifier against Jordan wearing the hijab. Three Jordanian players who wear the hijab were also barred.

The three women’s organizations said FIFA’s acquiesce in the AFC’s assertion that the hijab, a headdress that complies with Islamic law that obliges women to cover their hair, ears and neck, as a “cultural rather than a religious symbol” and therefore did not violate IFAB rules was unacceptable.

The letter suggests that FIFA and AFC efforts to reach a compromise between world soccer rules and Islamic law followed by conservative female Muslim players was, likely to meet resistance from non-Muslim women’s and feminist groups. It is a battle between value systems in which conservative female Muslim players demand a right and non-Muslim women activists seek to impose what they see as a universal value.

Ironically, the two opposing groups may find common ground when it comes to Iran, which welcomed world soccer’s efforts to seek a compromise, but is likely to remain in the firing line because of its imposition of the hijab on its players rather than allowing it to be an individual voluntary decision. Iran is further likely to run afoul of world soccer because of its insistence that visiting foreign women soccer teams dress in accordance with the Islamic republic’s interpretation of Islamic law.

The three women’s organizations charged that the FIFA decision constituted an effort to kowtow to the most conservative Islamic states, presumably a reference to Iran and Saudi Arabia, which effectively bans women’s sports.

“To pretend that hijab is a cultural and not a religious symbol is not only preposterous, but untrue… You neither can put aside the fact that the conflict that has opposed FIFA to the Iranian regime is linked to Tehran’s will to impose its own religious law to women’s sport,” the organizations said in their letter.

They charged that Iran rather than seeing the hijab as a cultural symbol was seeking “to impose a political religious outfit for women, that covers entirely their body… Sport must stay clear of political and religious interfering. Its aim also is to eliminate all forms of discrimination. FIFA ruling is about to abandon this noble aim and FIFA will be accountable for that,” the organizations said.

About the author:
James M. Dorsey

James M. Dorsey is a senior fellow at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer.
Source: http://www.eurasiareview.com/29122011-french-women-groups-protest-fifa-decision-to-endorse-hijab-analysis/


Coaching women's basketball in Qatar

Coaching Women’s Basketball in Qatar

Most of them had never even dribbled before—but soon they were boxing out like Dennis Rodman. By Clare Malone|Posted Monday, Dec. 19, 2011, at 11:30 AM ET

The arc of my basketball career began rooted in one Abrahamic faith and over the years, in a cosmic curveball found itself inextricably linked with another. It was a Hail Mary-to-hijabs experience that went Midwest to Mideast.

My first layups were practiced in the St. Dominic School café-gym-atorium under the watchful eye of God, the Communion of Saints and Mr. Sweeney, a gruff middle-aged dad who sounded like he’d swallowed gravel and Mae West. He called 8-year-old-girls “schmucks” and favored suicides over pep talks. As a result, we were unstoppable. For five glorious years we reigned as Catholic Youth Organization champs for the East Side of Cleveland, no small feat; along with the Kennedy family and novelty boxing nun dolls, American Catholics are most proud of the fierce athleticism of their youth leagues. By the time I dropped basketball in eighth grade for what would become other serious athletic pursuits, I was hardwired for competition.

Armed with this belief in the liberating power of athletics, I marched into coachdom when I moved to Doha, Qatar, after college to work for an American university. Despite the prevailing local notion that women should confine themselves to the domestic sphere, the university had women’s basketball—part of the American college experience we were serving up for our predominantly Middle Eastern students. I volunteered to coach in September, and was excited to find a little bit of home in sports. To be part of a team again. To wear really slick suits to games, Rick Pitino-style. After years of furtive competition with fellow gym-goers on adjacent treadmills, I would regain a valid competitive outlet. In short, I was in it to win it.

What struck me about my first open practice in Doha was the sheer amount of hair. During school hours, when they were surrounded by men, many of the girls, practicing Muslims, wore hijabs, abayas, and stylish combinations of turtlenecks and flowing fabrics. Here, they’d literally let their hair down. All our practices were conducted with the door barred and a sign proclaiming “ladies only,” so that the privacy of girls whose religiosity prohibited men to see their bare head, legs, or arms would be protected. There was a lot of giddiness that first practice, partially due to the shorts and ponytail freedom, but also because, much to my alarm, a good number of them appeared to have never dribbled a ball. Nor had many ever run a lap. For many women in the region, exercise—let alone athletic competition—just isn’t a part of everyday life. Most of these waifish girls had the cardiovascular capabilities of hard-living 65-year-old teamsters. Whipping them into shape was going to be more difficult than I’d imagined.

My first dictum as coach was to initiate conditioning practices. I began the first session with the proclamation that we were going to go on a jog around campus, but some of the girls who wore hijab either didn’t have the proper clothing or were uncomfortable with the idea of an outdoor trot—I had only to think back to the catcalls of suburban lawn crews ogling hordes of high school field hockey players to understand this instinct. I learned to draw up an alternative indoor workout plan. Those willing to brave the desert heat and bewildered stares from passers-by I led on Indian runs and agilities, tearing up the sole green space on campus, a meticulously watered patch of grass in a sea of beige buildings and sand.
For the first couple of weeks, I tried to play elementary school gym teacher—I was there to push them, but gently. I had to demonstrate what high-knees running and the grapevine looked like. I tried to make them stretch as a team, counting in unison, the way American youth athletes do almost by instinct, but often ended up as the only voice by the time we reached “five.”

I tired of the Montessori act after the second week and got tough. The girls would feel real pain, dammit, and that pain would be suicides. I had a whistle and everything. Their first time up and down the court there was laughter and jogging, slight amusement at coach’s newest practice element. (I was only a couple years older than many of my charges, and a favorite topic of conversation between drills were their plans to set me up with a nice Muslim boy.) But by the end of the third round, the doubled-over panting of my players brought joy to my cold, cold heart. Now we were getting somewhere.

It was an uphill slog throughout the fall and early winter. They would tell me that they couldn’t run because they had their periods, and that they couldn’t make practice because of an impending paper. As someone who had both menstruated and been assigned homework while also playing a college sport, I was less than amused. There were also the family-imposed curfews to contend with, which prevented certain girls from making late practices, or weekend obligations with aunts and uncles that they just couldn’t get out of.
I sometimes wished that my girls had the discipline and experience of the players we came up against at the American expat high schools in the region, the freakishly tall, blonde Anabaptist beasts, offspring of Texas oil elite and pathologically wholesome Canadians who played with assurance and panache. I‘m certain that their coaches never had to explain that using your derriere to box someone out underneath the basket is not immodest or in the least way sexual. But I came to realize that it was the sheltered lifestyle of so many women in the region that kept some of the girls from pushing themselves. Sure, there’s the overt stuff that we see all over the news in the West—women covered head-to-toe in stifling black fabric and their supposed inability to operate motor vehicles. But in Qatar, people were constantly getting upset over the more subtle corrosion of “traditional values.” These usually have something to do with women and the things they’re allowed to do—like, say, play sports seriously. It’s as if traditionalists fear the entire country is going to erupt into one big ladies’ night if they’re not careful—all short skirts and tippling cosmos and marrying for love.

Cultural circumstances weren’t the only thing holding my players back either. Their personal travails were often quite serious. My big recruiting campaign was to convince a girl, who was worried about schoolwork and her husband who was stuck in Yemen, to join the team. And unlike typical American college students, she faced the additional pressure of keeping up with day-to-day family obligations in Qatar. Basketball ended up serving as an outlet of sorts for her, an hour or two of relief from the stresses that crowded the rest of her life.

Lebanon’s women bring in 3 gold medals

Lebanon’s women bring in 3 gold medals
December 20, 2011 02:47 AMBy Kenny Laurie

BEIRUT: Lebanese sport had its most productive day yet at the Arab Games in Doha Monday with Lebanon collecting three gold medals, all of which were won by female athletes.
Lebanon’s women’s basketball team showed up their male counterparts by clinching the gold medal at the Arab Games with a 72-34 win over hosts Qatar while Gretta Taslakian won the women’s 200-meter race and Katya Bachrouche clinched her second gold medal of the games in the 400-meter freestyle.
While the women’s team managed to go through the entire championship unbeaten, Lebanon’s men have slumped to two abysmal defeats, as well as suffering the embarrassment of revoking center Sam Hoskin’s citizenship for having once played basketball in Israel. Even more embarrassingly, the Sports and Youth Ministry admitted that it knew about Hoskin’s previous appearances in Israel but chose to cover up the detail. The women’s side, however, restored some much-needed credibility to the federation thanks to the sublime performances throughout the Arab Games.
As if to highlight Lebanon’s domination and philosophy, not one single player scored in double figures against Qatar, as the team instead shared the ball, resulting in only two players on the 15-woman roster failing to score. The team managed to create 22 assists in a blinding performance of team basketball. Rebecca Akl once again set the tone for Lebanon, handing out seven assists and troubling Qatar on the defensive end with five steals.
Taslakian’s gold medal will have gone some way toward atoning for her disappointing silver medal in the 100-meter race last week. The Lebanese athlete clocked a time of 24:10, two tenths of a second slower than her personal best and national record. Taslakian has now won three of the last four gold medals available to her in the Arab Games.
Bachrouche’s second gold medal marks the swimmer’s place as the nation’s most successful athlete at the games, having won the 400-meter butterfly race Saturday. The swimmer clocked a time of 4:15.24 to win gold.
Despite the slew of wins, Lebanon still sits in 13th place in the overall medal table with 18 medals, including four golds, four silvers and 10 bronze medals. Egypt still sit at the top of the table with more than double the medals (168) of second placed Tunisia (83).
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 20, 2011, on page 15.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/Sports/Basketball/2011/Dec-19/157342-lebanons-women-bring-in-3-gold-medals.ashx#ixzz1hGEtPxtQ
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)


Barriers exposed

'Sporting Equals' finally acknowledges "religious and cultural misinterpretations" as a barrier to Muslim women's full and active engagement in sport in the UK... now that, after decades of research, we have successfully managed to expose the tip of the ice-berg, we can pave the way to understanding the rest of the ice-berg!!

The latest book on Muslim Women and Sport

This book by Prof. Tansin Benn (University of Birmingham) and colleagues examines the global experiences, challenges and achievements of Muslim women participating in physical activities and sport. It makes a profound contribution to our understanding of both contemporary Islam and the complexity and diversity of women’s lives in the modern world. A must-read for anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating topic. The book confronts many deeply held stereotypes and crosses those commonly quoted boundaries between ‘Islam and the West’ and between ‘East and West’. It makes a great-read reading for anyone with an interest in the interrelationships between sport, religion, gender, culture and policy.
Also: http://muslimwomeninsports.blogspot.com/2010/05/new-book-on-shelves-muslim-women-and.html


MWSF Ambassador Awards 2012

It's about celebrating diversity and the contribution of "everyday" women in sport
The Ambassador Awards is a showcase event which will highlight the contribution of individuals and organisations to the unique arena of minority ethnic sports.  This event, the first of its kind, will specifically focus on female role models from the Muslim community and those that have worked to increase access to sports for Muslim women across the globe.
Hosted by the Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation (MWSF) and supported by the Football Association, the Ambassador Awards will take place in April 2012 at the prestigious home of football, Wembley Stadium.
UK Sportswoman of the Year

The UK Sportswoman of the year award celebrates an exceptional Muslim woman who is a British citizen and has excelled or has the potential to succeed in her chosen sport and is an inspiration to the community.
International Sportswoman of the Year

The International Sportswoman of the year award celebrates an exceptional Muslim woman who is not a UK citizen and has excelled or has the potential to succeed in her chosen sport and acts as an inspiration to the community
UK Coach of the Year 

The UK Coach of the year award recognises an individual, male or female, who has put particular effort into encouraging, improving and developing Muslim sportswomen in the UK and deserves merit for their efforts & accomplishments
Community Award

The Community Award applies to an organisation based in the UK or abroad that has made significant strides in promoting inclusion and equality as well as creating opportunities for Muslim women to participate in sport.
Volunteer of the Year

The Volunteer of the year award celebrates the contribution of an individual, male or female, for their invaluable and selfless commitment though volunteering to enhance, support and promote sport for Muslim women in the UK.
Outstanding contribution 

The Outstanding Contribution award is intended to recognise an individual, male or female, whose contribution through their daily work has made a significant impact on the development of women’s sport in the Muslim community. This person would have gone above and beyond their call of duty to ensure sports activities for this community became and remains a reality.


Muslim fencer has it all covered

By Julia Savacool
When Ibtihaj Muhammad discovered fencing in high school, there was no way she could have known her hobby would take her all the way to the cusp of the Olympic Games. Her passion for the sport was much simpler: As a practicing Muslim, she needed to cover herself in public. Here was a sport that required she do just that -- while still letting her experience the thrill of competing. Muhammad's knack for fencing quickly became evident, and she rose through the ranks to become one of the best in the country. Now, just three months from the announcement of the 2012 American Olympic team, she is training harder than ever for a spot on the roster, determined by points in upcoming tournaments. The competition is intense -- one mistake can be the difference between having a spot on the team or watching the Games from home -- but Muhammad remains focused. Her mother, Denise Muhammad, credits her daughter's success in part to her desire to be the first American Muslim female Olympian in her sport. espnW learned more from Denise about what it's been like for Ibti as an ethnic and religious outsider trying to fit in.
espnW: Fencing is a pretty niche sport. At what age did Ibti commit to it?
Denise Muhammad: We didn't even know what it was, really. She started getting involved with the sport in high school. But even at a young age, I encouraged all my children to be active. I have four daughters and a son, and they all played some kind of sport.
espnW: What else did Ibti play?
DM: She swam, played tennis, softball, track and field and volleyball. I'd make her outfits that covered her arms and legs, which allowed her to participate while still being true to her faith. She kept with volleyball through high school, along with fencing. But when it came time for college, it was clear there were better school opportunities for a fencer than a volleyball player. So she went that route.
espnW: Were you concerned about her fitting in?
DM: To a certain extent. Fencing is a very white sport. It isn't integrated, so she was truly a minority when she joined her team. But her teammates have been very accepting; it's her other friends, especially when she started, that gave her a hard time -- "You're doing what?!" -- that kind of thing. She learned early on not to let other people's opinions influence her goals in this sport.
espnW: Is that something she learned from you?
DM: I never played sports; I was just a spectator. I grew up in an era where girls were not encouraged to play sports. There were no female athletes in my family before Ibti.
espnW: The religious requirements do make it difficult ...
DM: As a Muslim girl playing school sports, you set yourself up to be singled out because of altering the uniforms. I don't think any of my Muslim friends or other Muslim women I knew would have encouraged their daughters to pursue athletics in a public school. Most of their children went to private schools, so they didn't have to face that situation. Financially, we couldn't do that. But I still encouraged my girls to play sports because of what it does for strengthening your body and your mind, and also because it's a healthy place for a social life. My girls knew I would never let them go to parties or mingle with the boys, but that was OK because they could socialize with their teammates.
espnW: What do you want your daughters to gain from playing sports?
DM: I want them to be self-confident. I raised Ibti to be very self-assured. With sports, when you're good at something, people are drawn to you -- they want to be around you, you're like a magnet. Ibti has made her identity as a fencer and an athlete. People respond to that, and it's given her confidence.
espnW: Where does she get her work ethic from?
DM: As a family, we never had money to play with. So it was always, if you're going to do something, we'll support you, but you need to give it your all. Don't be lackadaisical. But really, she pushes herself. She's a very competitive person.
espnW: You probably never imagined her getting to this point. Now that she has, any thoughts on her future?
DM: Well, last year at this time Ibti's goal was to make the world team. She kept saying, "Oh, Mom, if I could just make this team ..." And she did. Now it's, "Oh, Mom, if I could just make the Olympics ..." So that's obviously the big goal right now. We'll see -- the competition is very tough, but she's also very focused. As her mother, I don't want her to lose sight of having fun! I tell her, you don't have to carry our entire community on your shoulders. Just relax and enjoy it. You can't do any more than what God has planned for you."

Apologies for the Delay, and Welcome to Dr Samaya Farooq

Dear Followers of Muslim Women in Sports Blog,
Please accept my apologies for the one month break. As devoted followers may know, it was such an unusual incident for this blog. I was hospitalized for approximately two weeks, due to two surgeries in row on my right lung.
2011-11-14 08.17.46.jpg
I am much better now and you shall soon begin receiving news about Muslim Sportswomen around the world.
Also, Dr Samaya Farooq is now a member of this blog. Dr Farooq is a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Gloucestershire. She will start sharing news with you. She is also an Advisory Board member to the ‘Centre for Sport and Spirituality’, and placement tutor for the ‘Sport Malawi’ initiative. Welcome to Dr Farooq!
Dr Samaya Farooq


Dr Samaya Farooq on BBC 4: Muslim Women's Basketball and Globalisation

Dr. Samaya Farooq from University of Gloucestershire tells Laurie Taylor on her new study of Muslim sports women who combine faith and fitness. In the program called "Thinking Allowed", Laurie Taylor explores the latest research into how society works and discusses current ideas on how we live today. Prof. Henrietta Moore from University of Cambridge contributes to the program with a positive take on globalization.
Source: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/radio4/ta/ta_20111026-1712a.mp3


Prominent soccer executives and players seek compromise on the hijab

By James M. Dorsey

World soccer body FIFA and observant Muslim women soccer players may be close to a compromise in their dispute over the wearing of the hijab, a headdress that covers the neck, ears and hair.

The dispute led in June to the disqualification of the Iranian women’s national team after they appeared on the pitch in the Jordanian capital Amman for a 2012 London Olympics qualifier against Jordan because the players wore the hijab. Three Jordanian players who wear the hijab were also barred.

The Iranian team’s insistence on wearing the hijab contradicted an agreement reached last year in Singapore between FIFA and the Iranian Football Federation (IFF) under which the Iranians agreed to the wearing of a cap that covered hair but not the neck.

Prominent soccer executives, women players, coaches and referees agreed at a brainstorm in Amman this week convened by FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a half-brother of King Abdullah, that the hijab is a cultural rather than a religious symbol.

“The hijab issue has taken centre stage in football circles in recent years due to the increasing popularity of women’s football worldwide. It is a cultural issue that not only affects the game, but also impacts society and sports in general. It is not limited to Asia, but extends to other continents as well,” the executives and players said in a statement.

By defining the hijab as a cultural symbol, the group, meeting under the auspices of the Asian Football Development Project (AFDP), an NGO founded by Prince Ali to advance grassroots, youth and women’s soccer, hopes to lay the groundwork for a compromise that acknowledges the cultural requirements of observant Muslim women and meets FIFA’s health and safety standards.

In doing so, the group, which included FIFA Executive Committee member and head of the body’s medical committee Michel D’Hooghe, Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Vice President Moya Dodd, members of FIFA’s women committee as well as representatives of the soccer bodies of Jordan, Bahrain, Iran and the United Kingdom, hope to work around FIFA’s ban on the wearing of religious or political symbols on the pitch.

The group called on FIFA to articulate a clear policy that “avoid(s) any form of discrimination or exclusion of football players due to cultural customs” and establishes the pitch as “a forum for cultural exchange rather than conflict.”

Soccer executives said privately that the issue of the hijab had been complicated by the fact that the ban of the hijab on the pitch is based on a ruling by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) that determines the rules of the game. Interpretation of the IFAB ban on religious, political and personal symbols is left however to referees, which has led to differing interpretations on the pitch. It was the referee’s decision in June that led to Iran’s disqualification.

“The rules have to be adapted to the evolution of the game and the society or interpreted accordingly,” the group said, noting that “FIFA is committed to the basic principles of non-discrimination and allows on this basis the use of the head covering.”

The group said “safety must remain the most important consideration for the use of hijab.” It said that FIFA would coordinate accelerated research to ensure that the hijab or headdress worn by women on the pitch ensured safety in the game. It called on FIFA to consider “innovative designs …. with full consideration of medical aspects, particularly safety, aesthetic arguments, type of material.”

The group said that FIFA should weigh lower safety risks against the greater health benefit of women playing soccer and asserted that allowing the hijab would persuade more women to become players and empower them across cultures.

Prince Ali and Mr. D’Hooghe will put the principles adopted by the group to FIFA at its next executive committee meeting scheduled for December. The prince together with Ms. Dodd would also table the principles at next month’s AFC executive committee meeting, the statement said. It said that the principles would have to be “in accordance with the safety aspects” so that they could be proposed to IFAB when it meets in February 2012.

Farideh Khanom Shojaei, a member of the Iranian soccer body’s women’s committee, and Houshang Moghaddas, the international relations advisor to IFF President Ali Kafashian, said in an interview that the group’s proposal marked a significant step forward.

Ms. Shojaei and Mr. Moghaddas suggested however that final agreement on a compromise could still prove difficult. “The neck is very important,” Ms. Shojaei said, suggesting that Iran would insist on a design that covered not only the hair but also neck.

Ms. Shojaei and Mr. Moghaddas acknowledged that the fact that the hijab is compulsory for Iranian women players and that Iran imposes the wearing of the hijab on foreign teams playing in the Islamic republic was likely to remain an issue even if FIFA and IFAB adopt the group’s principles. Iran is the only country that has made the hijab compulsory for its players as well as for visiting foreign teams.

James M. Dorsey is a Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University and the author of the blog, The Turbulent World of Middle East Soccer
Source: http://mideastsoccer.blogspot.com/2011/10/prominent-soccer-executives-and-players.html


El Moutawakel to continue flying the flag

Morocco's legendary athlete wants to ensure women assert themselves on international stage
  • By Alaric Gomes

Dubai: She is considered the face of athletics for women, and this is a tag that she proudly wears with grace and humility further enhancing her standing in the world of sports.
In her own words, Nawal El Moutawakel's story is that of "rising to a challenge to meet the aspirations of an entire Muslim world", first on and then off the field.
"I was a woman, a Muslim and speaking the language [English] were among some of the challenges before me. But I was strong and I decided to go forth in the world dominated by men," El Moutawakel told the Dubai 2nd International Symposium for Sports Creativity held yesterday along the lines of the Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Creativity Awards.
Born on April 15, 1962 in Casablanca, Morocco, El Moutawakel won the inaugural women's 400m hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, thereby becoming the first female Muslim born in Africa to become an Olympic champion.

She is also the first Moroccan and the first woman from a Muslim majority country to win an Olympic gold medal. In 2007, she was named the Minister of Sports in the Moroccan cabinet. After her Olympic gold, the King of Morocco telephoned El Moutawakel to pass on his congratulations, and he declared that all girls born the day of her victory were to be named in her honour.
Unfortunately, her father passed away a few months before the 1984 LA Games, denying her of much greater joy while on the victory podium. "When I received the gold medal I had mixed feelings as he [father] was not around to see his dream come true," she related.
However, injuries forced her to cut short her international career at a young age of 24, thereby making her look towards a new challenge in sport off the field. In 1995, El Moutawakel became a council member of the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) and three years later, she became a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
El Moutawakel was also the president of evaluation commissions for the selection of the host city for the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympic Games in London and Rio de Janeiro respectively. "It is ironical that after more than 100 years of world track and field, we did not have a single woman representative on the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But I started a trend and after the most recent elections we have six elected women in the IAAF alone," she noted.
"My biggest challenge was to ensure that we overcome the isolation of women, and given my experience as an athlete, I wanted to ensure my experience benefited sports and women, in particular," she added.

When a Photo Inspired by Sport Becomes an Image of Hope

The Olympic Museum has announced the results of the HOPE photo competition launched in the spring of this year.
It was on the International Day of Peace that the winners of the HOPE photo competition organised by The Olympic Museum in Lausanne were announced. The jury was composed of David Burnett, the renowned international photo reporter who has been covering the Olympic Games since 1984; Sam Stourdzé, Director of the Musée de l’Elysée photographic museum in Lausanne; and David Herren, Head of the IOC’s Images Section.
The first prize was awarded to « sudiptopix », India for his photo "Womens' Empowerment", which shows a Muslim woman playing football in a park in Calcutta, India. The jury particularly appreciated this urban sporting scene, offering a vision of sport as a unifying element, bringing joy to those who play it and demolishing prejudices.
The second prize went to « And®e », Brazil. It was the emblematic element of the photo which the jury liked: diving into water, daring and striving for excellence. The image shows the moment of competition when everything is still possible.
The third prize was awarded to « tbalakshin », Canada for his photo entitled "Form". The jury admired the unusual view of this sports performance, which the photographer has transformed into a moment of poetry.
The competition winner will get to visit Lausanne, Olympic capital, as part of an exclusive four-day programme. He will also receive photographic equipment worth Euros 2,000. The second and the third winner will receive photographic equipment respectively worth Euros 1,000 and Euros 500.
The Olympic Museum thanks Worldwide TOP Partner Panasonic for supporting this competition by providing photo equipment for the three prizewinners.
For more information, please contact the IOC Media Relations Team:
Tel: +41 21 621 6000
Source: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2011/10/prweb8895640.htm

Young soccer player stands out for talent and beliefs

By Mike Anderson
MURRAY — A Cottonwood High School student is taking dedication for her religion to the soccer field.
Serene Kergaye is a devout Muslim, and she loves soccer. When she's on the field, she often stands out because she follows a dress code of modesty.
"Yeah, I look kind of weird on the field," she said. "I'll be dressed head to toe in one color — because we have to be either white or black — but oh well, I'd rather play."
Of course from the sidelines, she tends to turn a few heads. "Definitely, they probably do a double take," girls soccer coach Angela Hamilton said. "She's different than any other girl on the field."
But that inner dedication to religion and sport goes way beyond what Kergaye wears. During Ramadan, Muslims fast each day, early all of August.
"I don't drink any water all day, from 5 a.m. til 9 p.m. It was hard," Kergaye said. "Usually I only have one game and one practice a week, but this year it was every day, 4 to 5 hours a day."
Pretty much, everybody thinks their religion's the religion. But, I think mine's right, so I'm gonna follow it. And I'm not gonna go halfway.
The coach is impressed with Kergaye's dedication. "It's really neat to see somebody that dedicated to something they believe in," Hamilton said, "and it does translate on to the field."
Her teammates agree. Ali Bromley-Dulfano said Kergaye puts a lot into her sport.
"She would come every day, and she would say stuff like, ‘I'm so excited for when I can eat again, cause I'm gonna take on all of you guys. I'm gonna take you down!' Bromley-Dulfano said laughing.
But Kergaye said that outward dedication is about more than following a dress code. She hoped that as people take notice, they'll start to understand Muslims better and look past the stereotypes.
"I think if they knew more Muslims and stuff, and knew that we're normal, we don't sit in our basement all day and make bombs," she said. "We play soccer. We play football. We're normal. (We) just wear more clothes."
Hamilton said Kergaye refuses to take it easy.
"Pretty much, everybody thinks their religion's the religion. But, I think mine's right, so I'm gonna follow it," Kergaye said. "And I'm not gonna go halfway."
Kergaye's parents were both born in the United States, and both come from a Muslim background. Their roots come from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Switzerland.
Email: manderson@ksl.com