Instructor: Heidi Golesorkhi
Muslim Women and Sports
In the United States, women began their battle for equality in 1848. Along the way they gained the freedom to vote, drive, and participate in virtually anything they chose. Often it is forgotten that gender discrimination is still openly and actively happening around the world. In places such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei women are anything but equal. Saudi women are forbidden from acting independently and even from participating in physical activities. Female presence in sports is banned, and considered culturally unacceptable. The Saudi government believes there is no way to allow women to participate without violating what they believe in. Saudi women are prevented from participating in sports because of the culture and the complicated society.
In light of the 2012 London Olympics, there has been an excessive amount of attention drawn to the gender inequality that is currently being practiced. More specifically the fact that Muslim women are forbidden to participate in sports or any type of physical activity. Saudi Arabia has very strong beliefs regarding the placement of women, they are treated as minors. Women are not allowed to choose for themselves, they are to do as their male guardian instructs. In addition, they are forbidden from traveling, working or studying without their male guardian’s permission. Saudi has been very open with their beliefs and practices regarding their women. The treatment of women in Islamic culture is gaining excessive negative attention. Human rights groups have interjected on their behalf, insisting it is time for a change. According to Pearlman, a global post producer for special reports, “Islam is the governing religion in Saudi Arabia, and according to some interpretations of Sharia law, which the Kingdom abides by, women are not allowed to drive, be in the presence of male strangers, be admitted to hospitals, or get jobs without permission. They are not allowed within sports stadiums, and although there are no laws against women competing in sports, they cannot register for sports clubs with the government, there are no physical education programs for girls in public schools, and they are banned from national athletic trials, which is why no women actually qualified for the Olympics, and were instead invited” (Pearlman). The Islam governing law very clearly dictates that women are subordinates. The laws of the land are not intended for them to question, only to follow.
In addition to the list of restrictions, it is openly proclaimed that Saudi women are denied the right to practice sports. They are currently the only country in the entire world that will not allow girls to participate in public school sports. In some private schools, they do allow strict, segregated physical education. There are so many official sports clubs that are regulated by the general presidency of your welfare, not one of them will allow women on the grounds let alone to actually play. All major stadiums bar women as spectators as well. Women’s football, volleyball, and basketball are held secretly. Obviously this ban makes it impossible to find women who are capable of competing. They have no support and no option to train even if they were to be allowed to participate. A Human Rights Watch report, "Steps of the Devil: Denial of Women and Girls Rights to Sport in Saudi Arabia," highlights, "Gender discrimination in Saudi Arabia is institutional and entrenched. Millions of girls are banned from playing sports in schools and women are prohibited from playing team sports and denied access to sports facilities, including gyms and swimming pools" (Taplin-Chinoy). The once quiet, unnoticed country has quickly become the target of angry Human rights groups. Taking away the possibility for females of all ages to participate in recreational activities has created a lot of negativity...