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.

Sikh athletes will be allowed to carry a "kirpan" dagger

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.

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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.”

However, Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam on the Muslim Council of Great Britain, is not so harsh. “I’m sure the athletes will seek advice from their scholars,” he said, noting that under some circumstances, a devout Muslim can postpone or even be excused from his observance of the fast.

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Related Topics: Olympics, Sikh, Muslim, Islam, Iran

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