Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Hijab controversy: OIC should confront IOC

In the name of God, Most Merciful, Most Compassionate; blessing and peace be upon Prophet Muhammad s.a.w.

It is He who created
the night and the day
and the sun and the moon:
All the celestial bodies swim along,
each it its rounded course. (Anbiyaa 21:30)


RECENTLY this news item, from Daily News/Tehran Times with the title ‘FIFA bans Iran's women soccer team for wearing hijab’ caught my attention. Muslims and Muslim states remained silent even though the SOS asking for their support was broadcast openly.

“TEHRAN, April 8: The Iranian Olympic Committee has called on Muslim states around the world to protest to FIFA and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after the country’s women’s football team were banned for wearing the hijab at this year’s inaugural Summer Youth Olympic Games to be held Singapore.

Bahram Afsharzadeh, the secretary general of Iran’s Olympic Committee, claimed the decision is a violation of Muslims rights.

The team, who qualified to compete in the Games, which are due to be held between August 14 and 26, wearing head scarves, have been informed by FIFA that they will not be allowed to compete unless they remove the hijab.

Ali Kafashian, the president of the Iran Football Association, has written to FIFA to ask them to reconsider their decision, claiming that due to religious beliefs the team will be able to participate in the competitions only if they are allowed to observe the Islamic dress code.

FIFA had passed a ruling in March 2007 that the hijab is forbidden in matches. It came after a Canadian Muslim was expelled from a match for donning a hijab.

The decision, taken by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the body which decides the laws of the game and is made up of the four FA’s from the United Kingdom and FIFA, cited law 4 which lists the basic equipment that players are allowed to wear and does not include headwear except for the goalkeeper.

Brian Barwick, the then chief executive of the Football Association and a member of the IFAB that took the decision, claimed at the time “it’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favour law 4 being adhered to.”

Afsharzadeh said the decision taken by FIFA proves that it does not care about such issues as nationality, religion and race.

“It is also an indication of creating obstacles on their part in the way of the women’s progress,” he added. “Iran’s National Olympic Committee has forwarded copies of a protest letter to the IOC and a number of other leading officials around to consider the issue,” Afsharzadeh said.

Meanwhile, in its letter to Iran Football Federation (IFF), FIFA said they had no choice but to disallow Iran girls’ football team from participating.

"Taking into consideration the clear position stated by (the Olympic committee of) Iran, the FIFA executive committee had no choice other than to decide that Iran will not be able to participate," FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke stated.

This is the second time within a year that the issue of athletes donning hijab has cropped up in Singapore.”

The Iranian Olympic Committee has called on Muslim states around the world to protest to FIFA and IOC regarding the banning of wearing hijab by Iranian sportswomen, but I did not hear any reactions from Muslims what more from Muslim states.

Muslims remained silent, but in my opinion they should support the call and form an united front to defend Muslim women’s (Muslimah) right to hold to their religious obligations including when taking part in sports events whether they were in the fields, in the gymnasium or in swimming pools.

Regarding the attires worn by sportswomen, nowadays it is common for them to don a two piece cloth – one to cover their breasts and the other their private parts – might it be on the beaches (example beach volleyball), fields or tracks.

If sometime such outfits were standard attire of athletes from the Western world and Latin America, nowadays their counterparts from Asia, the Arab world and African nations too leave their trademark ‘singlet and shorts’ and don sexy outfits.

In the pools, on the gymnasium floors, in the fields and almost everywhere the girls are subjected to the standard attire accepted the world over – bare your sexy bodies or ‘you should stay home’.

So it is a must – you must wear those skimpy outfits, if not, don’t ever dream of taking part in any of the events. The majority of the world’s population has nothing to fuss about this development but to the practicing Muslims, these scenarios are totally against the teaching of Allah The Almighty and His Prophet, Muhammad (pbuh).

The Western world (such as the organizers of world’s sporting events, the Olympics and World Championship), is leading the human race back into the ‘jahiliah’ (ignorant) period or the dark ages. Women are once again used as sex objects to satisfy men’s lust in the name of sports and other international events and gatherings such as Miss World or Miss Universe pageants.

The problem among practicing Muslims, is that would their women athletes clad in the Islamic dress code be allowed in the pools, on the gymnasium floors or on the fields?

In my opinion if athletes could wear skimpy outfits, then there should be no discrimination for them to wear ‘hijab’ when doing the floor exercises or splashing up in the pools. But no, never has the world seen a Muslim woman gymnast or swimmer in ‘Islamic attire’ taking the gym floor or the swimming pool.

Now Iran wants their hijab wearing footballers to be allowed in the field, but they were met with great resistance by international sports bodies such as FIFA and IOC, but why must the Muslim world remain silent.

Wearing the hijab is no obstacle in sports as proved by several Muslimah athletes including Bahrain sprinter Ruqaya Al-Gasara, the 2006 Asian Games 100 metres champion, at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008.

In my opinion, Muslim countries under the umbrella of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) should be serious in sending men and women in Islamic attire to take part in international games. They should portray Ruqaya Al-Ghasara as an icon and help her and other ‘Islamic thinking’ athletes to greater heights including medals at the Olympics and World Games.

If FIFA and IOC resisted in not allowing hijab wearing sportswomen, why not OIC do something? Why not OIC take the initiative to approach and ‘slow talk’ with IOC? But the fact OIC chose to remain silent.

Muslim leaders and sportsmen and women should have the guts to challenge the regulations that are against the Islamic teachings imposed on them by the international sports governing bodies for Allah SWT, the Almighty says: “O you who believe! If ye obey the unbelievers, they will drive you back on your heels, and you will turn back (from Faith) to you own loss.” (Qur’an 3: 149).

So why not OIC confront IOC if it have the guts and determination to honour Muslim women! In Malaysia, why not human rights and Muslims groups including Sisters in Islam (SIS) fight for the sportswomen's right to wear the hijab?

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