Even as a kid, Ibtihaj Muhammad stood out. She was faster and stronger than her friends, and she was serious about her religion. Most of the sports she tried required physically revealing gear, in sharp contrast to the modesty her Muslim faith required. Then she discovered fencing. The sport let her express her athletic talent, and the uniform allowed her to stay true to her faith.
Today Ibtihaj is one of the best fencers in the world—and an observant Muslim woman. This summer, she will represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. And when she competes for her country, representing all of us, she will be the first American Olympian to do so while wearing the hijab. Ibtihaj embraced what made her stand out, and she’s an Olympian because of it.
That’s not just the story of Ibtihaj Muhammad. That’s the story of America.
Leading representatives of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish and Muslim religious organisations, as well as the heads of employer associations and unions, and of umbrella associations in the fields of culture, sports and social welfare joined hands in the creation of the ‘Alliance for Open-Mindedness’. According to Zekeriya Altug, spokesman of the Coordination Council of Muslims in Germany, the Alliance’s objective is to speak out against fringe movements – especially those from the populist far-right – claiming to represent the societal mainstream. This sentiment – a thinly veiled reference to right-wing protestors to chant ‘We are the people!’ at their anti-immigrant and anti-Islam rallies – was echoed by the leaders of the other confessional organisations. The Alliance conceives of itself as a civil society platform without any party affiliation, seeking to offer a space for religious and social dialogue. Under the header ‘human dignity shall be inviolable’, the Alliance issued an initial proclamation demanding a less hysterical debate on questions of immigration and integration that would remain mindful of fundamental commitments to human rights and to the German Basic Law.
March 30, 2014
The district attorney of the City State of Bremen had initiated investigations against four Salafists for “diffusing heavy criminal offenses against the State”. These four men are said to have left Germany towards Syria to fight for Salafist groups. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bremen assesses religious and cultural associations near the mosque Masjidu-I-Furqan as extremists. They are suspected to recruit and mobilize young pupils for the Jihad in Syria. Some of these associations offer social activities such as sports to attract young Muslims. Many of them are underage.
According to the security authorities, approximately 300 German Islamists including converts have left Germany to fight in Syria. They are expected to commit violence such as the beheading of prisoners in front of the camera. These cruel rituals are interpreted as tests of courage and a means to radicalize the young men.
A broad infrastructure of youth imams, sports leagues, scouting groups and other forums have sprung up to assist young Muslims in their quest for identity in the United States.
Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) dismissed the idea of gender segregation. Her government spokesman Streiter described the segregation of Muslim boys and girls as “the absolute wrong signal for the integration policy of Germany”.
Before, Peer Steinbrück the chancellor candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) refused a clear statement; neither denying nor welcoming gender segregation.
Editor’s note: Jocelyne Cesari is the senior visiting professor of International Relations at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University and director of the Islam in the West Program, Harvard University.
(CNN) — For the first time, Saudi Arabia sent two women to the Olympics — Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, who will compete in judo and track and field. But their participation is far from a groundbreaking step for Saudi women.
It was touch and go whether one of the Saudi women, Shaherkani, would even participate this year when the president of the International Federation of Judo said women wearing headscarves would not be allowed to compete for fear of choking and injury. The issue has been resolved and she will participate in a form of headgear that complies with Saudi’s strict Islamic dress codes for women.
But if Shaherkani had withdrawn, it would not have been a setback for Saudi women because her inclusion was not a sign of advancement. The presence of Saudi women is the result of several months of pressure by the International Olympics Committee on Saudi Arabia to include women competitors or face being banned from participation.
The situation for female athletes in Saudi Arabia is bleak.
Saudi women in general are denied the right to practice sports. Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prevents girls from taking part in sports in government schools. Physical education is allowed only in private schools. Women are not allowed to play in official sports clubs or even watch matches in stadiums. Girls’ football, volleyball and basketball games in private schools and colleges are held secretly.
Because of this ban, finding women with Olympic level training was a kind of mission impossible. Only a few days before its July announcement that the two women would attend, the Saudi National Olympic Committee said it could not find a woman qualified enough to compete.
Most Muslim-majority countries have sent female athletes to compete in the Olympics for decades. More Muslim women are competing in sports today than ever.
But even when women are included, competition remains a challenge, particularly because of athletic dress codes. In 2007, the International Federation of Association Football issued a ban on the hijab or headscarf. But this year, FIFA has lifted the ban after testing new hijabs specifically designed for athletes.
In sports and in daily life, women have few rights in Saudi Arabia.
The country, according to a Human Rights Watch report, has one of worst records on women’s rights in the world. Women are treated as legal minors and often must have a man’s permission to leave their homes, seek medical care, participate in public life, study, go to government offices and courts or even make decisions for their children. The genders are strictly segregated. Women cannot drive.
It would be tempting to see the Saudi’s decision to include women in the Olympics as a big step forward.
But as Minky Worden, director of global initiatives at Human Rights Watch, said: “An 11th hour change of course to avoid a ban does not alter the dismal and unequal conditions for women and girls in Saudi Arabia.”
The signs of change for Saudi women are yet to come.
12 May 2012
Cultural barriers often stop Muslim women from involving in sports. Muslim Women’s Sports Foundation (MWSF), with the support of FA has launched a new initiative to get the Muslim women to become more physically active and challenge gender related issues in the community.
Barrio de San Roc, Badalona, Friday day of prayer for Muslims. The Pakistani community prepares the local sports hall to make it their place of worship while the patriarchs of the Gypsy clans that have already settled in the neighborhood for decades monitored to prevent incidents.
Muslims living in the neighborhood have a small chapel where there is no room for the more than 600 worshipers, so they have to perform Friday’s prayer in the square.
In Spain, home to more than one million Muslims has nine mosques and more than a thousand small places that serve as small praying spaces. Municipalities often do not know what license to grant to the building of new mosques.
This problem is concentrated in Catalonia and Levant where most Muslim immigrants have settled in recent years.