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
However, the Iranian women are holding onto a shread of hope after FIFA’s International Football Association Board heard a heart-felt appeal last weekend from FIFA Vice President Ali Bin al-Hussein, and agreeed to allow Muslim players to test over the next four months Dutch-designed headscarves held secure by Velcro.
No announcement has been made on whether their forfeited match with Jordan can be rescheduled under Olympic rules.
Prince Ali’s campaign to lift the ban has received widespread support
from the United Nations, the Asian Football Confederation, the International Federation of Professional Footballers and members of FIFA’s own executive committee.
“I am deeply grateful that the proposal to allow women to wear the headscarf was unanimously endorsed by all members of IFAB,” said Prince Ali after the new verdict. “I welcome their decision for an accelerated process to further test the current design and I’m confident that once the final ratification at the special meeting of IFAB takes place, we will see many delighted and happy players returning to the field and playing the game they love.”
Why are daggers OK, but not scarves? Safety, says FIFA. The four-month experiment will test whether Dutch-designed hijabs will stay in place. FIFA allows the Sikh kirpans since they are concealed under the uniform and pose no safety issues – the same allowance already made for religious necklaces and rosaries if they are concealed underneath uniforms.
London police will allow the Sikh daggers through security as long as they are less than three inches long and carried by Sikhs observing the traditional five-point requirement of unshorn hair and beard, a ritual comb, a steel bracelet, special garments and the kirpan.
This is hardly the first religious dilemma facing the Olympics. Annually food-preparers in the Olympic Village face a daunting task of providing meals. For example, Koreans, Chinese and Japanese athletes prefer different kinds of rice and many Asian athletes expect a variety of noodles for breakfast. Hindus can’t eat beef, a number of faiths can’t eat pork, Jews can only eat food from kosher kitchens and Muslims require hallal-prepared food.
The very first games in 700 B.C., the Olympics had religious overtones and the strictest of regulations regarding head coverings – or any other covering. Athletes competed nude to ensure that no special gear gave anybody an advantage. Events were sandwiched between processions, sacrifices, altar rituals and banquets honoring the Greek gods. Unmarried girls could watch the games, but married women could not. Both were allowed to participate in an alternative sport festival that honored the goddess Hera, a consort of Zeus. The female athletes wore a short, knee-length tunic.