Muslims and the Olympics

Posted By Levi

July 28th, 2012 1:20pm

Category: Middle East, Muslims

Last night was the opening ceremony of the London Olympics with more than 14,000 athletes from 200 countries taking part. Professor Juan Cole has an interesting piece on the history of Muslim participation in these games. There is some controversay among Muslims concerning the Games since they are being held during Ramadan -the month during which time observant Muslims refrain from drinking or eating during the daylight hours.

One of the issues facing Muslim athletes is whether or not they should fast during the Games. According to Professor Cole, it is a principle of Islamic law that you don’t have to fast on long journeys, and since most athletes will journey to London for the games, they can be considered exempt from fasting during them. Muslims exempted from fasting in Ramadan often make up the fast later. However, Malaysian religious authorities are encouraging some categories of athlete to fast nevertheless.

There also issues relating to women athletes. Recently I wrote two posts on this topic – Saudi Arabia ban on women’s sports blamed for rising obesity and Why do Muslim nations do so poorly at international sports?

For the first time Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei sent women athletes to the Games. At first, Saudi Arabia refused to include any women in its team but the Olympics Committee threatened to ban the entire Saudi team if women were not included. The Saudis eventually backed down amd included just two women in the squad.  One of the women  competitor in judo has been told that she cannot wear a headscarf for safety reasons. The Saudis have objected and lodged an appeal.

Women soccer (football) players had been told the same thing (no headscarfs), causing the Iranian women’s soccer team to pull out. Apparently, the rules have now been changed.

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