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
BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor
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.
British officials have known about the conflict for more than a decade, but the IOC cited tradition, precedent and practicality. London is better equipped to hold a summer event since demands of public transportation are lighter during the vacation months. Also, attendance is likely to be better if the Olympics take place while kids are on their summer school break.
Also, there’s the problem that the Olympics cannot be scheduled around every possible religious conflict. ”The Games bring together virtually every religion and creed,” said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies. “How to deal with religious clashes is up to the athletes.”
Indeed, in the classic movie Chariots of Fire, Scottish runner Eric Liddell skipped a key race and certain gold medal in the 1924 Olympics because he refused to run on Sunday.
Just days ago, Houston’s Jewish private school, Beren Academy, came within hours of forfeiting a shot at the state high school basketball championship since a key play-off game was for 9 p.m. on a Friday – after sundown and well into the Jewish Sabbath. Only at the last moment and under threat of lawsuit, was the game rescheduled.
Olympic officials say they are trying their best to accommodate cultural and religious needs. Organizers have recruited 193 chaplains, representing nine faiths, to assist some 17,000 athletes and officials expected to participate in the games. The International Olympic Committee requested facilities for five faiths – Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists – but London 2012 organizers are providing chapels for Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jains and Baha’is as well.
London’s efforts to accommodate people of faith are in sharp contrast to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, which were proceeded by a sharp crackdown on Chinese people of faith. The U.S. State Department