The Muslim women who overcame the odds and the prejudice to make history on the Olympic stage

Posted: August 4, 2012 in Islam, Social Trends
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The 100m sprinter Tahmina Kohstani of Afghanistan runs in a hijab and long clothing to conform with Islamic modesty laws

UCMINISTRIES:  Few realize the battle these ladies had to face just to get to the Olympics this year. This became more than just breaking a few world speeding records, but a challenge to overcome religious and political prejudice in their own countries.  They may not have won but the very fact that they were allowed to compete is a win in itself.  Whilst their garb may have seemed overdone personally it was almost refreshing compare to what other women athletes were not wearing. It cannot be missed that whilst men’s sporting shorts have got longer, women have got smaller and tighter.  In some cases can we even call it sporting attire?  I hope that the next Olympics will see more women from Islamic countries compete.

The Daily mail wrote this write-up and it’s worth reposting some of it. 

  • Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have all entered women athletes into the 2012 Olympic Games for the first time 
  • Judo entrant Wojdan Shaherkani, of Saudi Arabia, is aged just 16. She is one of two women representing Saudi Arabia, the other being Sarah Attar, 20, who has dual US citizenship
  • Qatar’s Noor Hussain Al-Malki, 17, is the first female athlete to compete for her country at the Olympics and is a 100m sprinter
  • 23-year-old Tahmina Kohistani, from Afghanistan is competing for the first time at the Olympics, also a 100m sprinter
  • Oman’s Shinoona Salah al-Habsi, 19, and Yemen’s Fatima Sulaiman Dahman, 19, are both debuting at the Games.

“Somalia’s determined Olympic hopefuls have overcome challenges in their war-torn country that few other athletes encounter. Training facilities are virtually non-existent and those that do operate are often pock-marked with bullet-holes. A Somali Athletics Federation official said recently: ‘The security situation has hampered our efforts, and the resources we have had to prepare the athletes were unspeakable.

For most athletes at the London Olympics, their battle starts when they take their place on the starting blocks. But for Wojdan Shaherkani and Tahmina Kohistani, just taking part in London felt like a gold medal victory. To reach the Games, they have had to overcome political, social, religious and sporting obstacles. The Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, who was embroiled in a political and religious row in her home country before being allowed to compete.   The 100m sprinter Tahmina Kohstani of Afghanistan runs in a hijab and long clothing to conform with Islamic modesty laws Judoka Shaherkani’s Olympics lasted just over a minute this morning, but the fact she made it to her bout with Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica meant it was a revolutionary moment for the women of Saudi Arabia. The country’s ultra-conservative clergy tried to destroy her ambitions to be Saudi’s first female Olympian, before an argument about the type of headscarf she should wear jeopardised her place at the eleventh hour.

And though Afghanistan’s Kohistani trailed in last in the 100 metres – in a time of 14.42 seconds – the warm appreciation of the London crowd who recognised her historic feat must have been the greatest of feelings. She has suffered months of harassment from men who don’t believe women should be permitted to play sport.   Both have made a strong statement to the people of their respective countries and the world with their determination to take part and their dignity.

As did Noor Hussain Al-Malki, only the fourth female athlete from Qatar to enter the Olympics, who lasted just a dozen strides before pulling up injured in her 100m heat.  

The record books will show DNF – Did Not Finish – but they were significant strides.

Shinoona Salah Al-Habsi of Oman and Sulaiman Fatima Dahman from Yemen are unlikely to trouble the favourites for gold, but as they sprinted down the track in the Olympic Stadium wearing colourful hijabs there was a sense of progress.

Shaherkani, just 16, comes from Saudi Arabia, a country of ultra-Conservatism where women are banned from driving and cannot leave the house without a male chaperone, let alone compete in the biggest sporting event in the world in front of millions around the world.

She had been rocked by the barbs of the country’s clergy, who strongly discourage female participation in sport in any form and labelled her the ‘Prostitute of the Olympics.’

Her family have been bombarded with racial abuse, according to reports, with many trying to claim Shaherkani did not represent their country.

There was then a row which threatened to end her chances once and for all. Her national Olympic Committee said she could only compete if she was wearing a hijab – a hair covering worn by many Muslim women.

Kohistani lined up in heat four of the women’s 100 metres. Alongside her were competitors from Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Micronesia, Cape Verde and San Marino – countries smaller than Afghanistan but light years ahead in terms of sporting equality.

The 23-year-old raced in a headscarf in the national colours of red, green and black, and a rather impractical outfit of long-sleeved top and jogging bottoms.

But the wall of noise Kohistani experienced in the Olympic Stadium was in stark contrast to the whistling and heckling she received on a daily basis from dozens of men while training at the stadium in Kabul.

They would shout ‘Just be in your house’ and ‘Be behind your man!’ as she raced up and down the track, honing her technique.

Her coach would often have to quite literally fight his way through the crowds afterwards.”

Source and full report
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