Written by IslamOnline
Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Many Muslim women athletes in the Beijing Olympic Games are breaking Western stereotypes, proving that donning the hijab is never an obstacle to excelling in life and sports."The hijab has never been a problem for me," Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, who made history for Muslim women athletes after winning a gold medal at the 2006 West Asian Games, told Reuters on Monday, August 11.
The Games, which opened on August 8, will see many Muslim women determined to stay devout to their religious dress code while pursuing the Olympic gold. Half a dozen veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni are competing in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery.
Al Ghasara and Iranian rower Homa Hosseini won the honor of being flag bearers for their countries at the opening ceremony.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations. The issue of hijab, which Islam sees as an obligatory code of dress not a religious symbol, in sports was thrust into the spotlight in the West recently.
Last January, an American high-school Muslim star runner was pulled out from a local competition for wearing hijab.
In March 2007, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), the game's ultimate regulators, said hijab is forbidden in soccer games. The ruling came after a Canadian Muslim was expelled from a soccer game for donning a hijab. An 11-year-old Canadian kid was also thrown out from a national Judo tournament last November for wearing hijab.
Egyptian fencer Shaimaa El Gammal, a third-timer at the Olympics, is wearing hijab for the first time in the games.
"When I fence I'm proud that I'm a Muslim," the 28-year-old told Reuters.
"It's very symbolic for women in my country."
For El Gammal, wearing the hijab has given her inner strength.
"People see us wearing the scarf and think we ride camels. But Muslim women can do anything they want."
Women in Al Ghasara's home town in Bahrain are so proud of their pioneering Olympic sprinter.
Some of them got together to design and sew a set of tailor-made aerodynamic veils to help her perform better in the games.
"In Bahrain you grow up with it," said Al Ghasara, who usually wears a trademark red and white hijab resembling the colors of her country's flag.
"We have women who are ambassadors, doctors, pilots.
"For me it's liberating."