Olympics approve Sikh knives, will test hijabs for Muslim soccer women
The International Olympic Committee finds itself in a swirl of controversy for scheduling the London Summer Olympics during Ramadan -- and dithering over whether Muslim women can wear head-coverings
This year at the London Olympics, Sikh athletes will be allowed to carry daggers – and some Muslim competitors may be exempted from their annual Ramadan fast. But a decision to experiment with the safety of hijab headcoverings for Muslim women soccer players may have come too late for Iran’s national women’s team.
London’s 2012 Olympics will take place during Ramadan, Islam’s holiest month. From sunrise to sunset, devout Muslims bar anything from passing their lips, even water. That could put Islamic athletes at an extreme disadvantage, particularly in the summer’s heat.
And the reversed decision on hijabs may have come too late for the Iranian national women’s squad, which forfeited a key qualifying match last week after the entire team showed up in the banned head-coverings.
The International Olympic Committee leaves certain decisions up to the international bodies governing each sport — as in the case with the hijab ruling, which the IOC left up to FIFA, the Swiss-based Fédération Internationale de Football Association, which turned to its traditional rulemakers, the International Football Association Board.
On the other hand, it was the IOC itself that has required the Olympic summer games take place any time between July 15 and August 31. As a result, the London Olympics will run from July 27 to August 12. Annually, Ramadan shifts forward by 11 days, putting it at July 21 to August 20, 2012, right in the middle of the Olympics.
As many as 3,000 Muslim athletes are expected to attend; countries with predominantly Muslim populations sent about a fourth of
the 11,099 competitors taking part in the 2004 Athens games.
Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission, has demanded the event be rescheduled: “They would not have organized this at Christmas. It is equally stupid to organize it at Ramadan.”