Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani was banned on Thursday from wearing the hijab head scarf when she is fighting at the Olympic Games.
The Saudi female banned from wearing the hijab at the Olympics is an 18-year-old heavyweight and one of the first two female athletes the Islamic monarchy has ever sent to the Olympic Games. The other athlete is Sara Attar.
It really isn’t all that it seems. Saudi Arabia only agreed to send a women’s team to London on condition that their two athletes respect a strict dress code and follow the laws of sharia.
The hijab, a head covering worn by women in Saudi Arabia, dates back to the Quran. There are many interpretations of what the hijab actually represents. Suffice it to say, it is widely viewed as extremely demeaning and oppressive to women.
Women in Saudi Arabia have to deal with Saudi laws as well as religious laws and they need a man’s approval to do just about anything.
It would be dangerous to be forced to wear the hijab while competing because Judo players toss their opponents. Quite often the gi, the judo uniform that is used for other martial arts, is used to grab opponents. The gi is made of a heavy weave cotton, and it is easier to hold on to than the light, slippery fabrics normally used to make hijabs.
The International Judo Federation has weighed in.
IJF president Marius Vizer said,
The Saudi Arabian athlete will take part in judo and she will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab.
And now Saudi Arabia is hopping mad and threatening to pull the women out. Saudi Arabia threatens to drop Olympics because of their Saudi female athlete banned from wearing a hijab at the Olympics
There are other issues too besides the hijab. The Saudi’s have a whole host of demands including that their athletes are chaperoned by a guardian and that their athletes can’t mix with the males.
If their draconian demands are met, it will be a further step backward and it might be a better move to let the Saudi’s pull the women from the Olympics.
They will be subject to international ridicule if they do pull their athletes.
The pressure and embarrassment directed to the Saudi men (after all women can’t make any significant decisions) will likely have a better impact than thoughtful reasoning since they appear to be much more sensitive to the critiques of other they consider powerful – and that would be the male leaders of other countries!