Headscarves and the Olympic Games

Headscarves and Olympic sports

headscarves bombed and banned by france by laughzilla for the daily dose april 11 2011Ever wonder ’bout headscarves in athletics?

At the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, women athletes on various teams, including Saudi Arabia, were required by their country, to wear headscarves specially designed for their sports. The Saudi women’s judoka wore a headscarf. So did Sarah Attar, the Saudi women’s 800 meter track runner.

At the same time, another group of women athletes, the synchronized swimming team from Egypt, swam with a fair amount of skill, in swimsuits that were as revealing as their competition, and no headscarves or swimming caps.

While this may not seem like much of an achievement, consider the context.

Headscarves in the Arab world

Headscarves are not some ubiquitous Muslim tradition dating back to Mohamed. Head scarves have been worn by men women of Jewish, Muslim and other religions, often by people who lived in uncomfortable climates, both in hot environments as well as cold places. Often, because of its impracticality in daily life, the ability to wear one regularly was seen as a sign of wealth. More recently, especially in monotheistic faiths that practice a male dominated pedagogy, it was taught as a mode of modesty. In Islam, the mandatory headscarf has only been a cultural norm in Saudi Arabla for about 100 years.

Even today, only the Saudi kingdom, Iran and parts of Indonesia require women to don a headscarf, hijab, or burqa of one sort or another. Meanwhile it is prevalent a wider number of nations, but again, not required. It is respectfully accepted. That acceptance is a form of liberal tolerance, not commonly found in places where the headscarf is required by law.

Egypt, which is a nascent democracy, is nevertheless a nation of strong cultural adherence, regardless of one’s opinion of that culture. And even though it is still regulated, the headscarf is a common garment seen in the streets of Cairo and Alexandria.

Geopolitical and cultural impact of the headscarf in Egypt

The country, which little over a year ago ousted its longtime secular military dictator, President Hosni Mubarak, in favor of an Islamist politician, may respect the headscarf, but it does not see a need to enforce it in the dress code, even as it remains the cultural epicentre of the modern Islamic world. The Arab Spring or Jasmine Revolution may after all be a stronger reinforcement of a coexisting cultural and political dichotomy than might be perceived at first glance.

The nation on the Nile is also now run by a democratically elected President, Mr. Mohamed Morsy, who was educated in America, and is a longtime friend and member of the Muslim Brotherhood. That’s right, the same Muslim Brotherhood that gave birth to the ideology which inculcated the extremism of Osama bin Laden and his al Qaida ilk. It does not take much imagination to understand what his views are on the subject of headscarves. He is all for them. Even so, he has not even tried (not yet anyway) to make the headscarf mandatory for Egyptian women, because he knows the people of Egypt would not willingly comply with such an order. Egypt, it seems, may be quite capable of running a government elected by the people, even if those people chose a Muslim fundamentalist as their leader.

Of course, that same Egypt is still really headed by the military, which shortly before the elections of 2012, secured its continuing authority through its own dictates. The Egyptian military has assured itself that limiting the executive powers of its newly elected President is the best path towards a better future.

The Egyptian President, meanwhile, as if to prove his moderate values, has already launched military attacks against terrorists in the Sinai peninsula, where recent attacks by militant Muslim gunmen left 17 Egyptian soldiers dead, in addition to destroyed property, military wreckage, and the aftermath of a lethal battle with Israeli forces, who killed the terrorists at the border.

Headscarves, Niqabs and other veils in Saudi Arabia

Now contrast the image of this seemingly divided nation against that of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia is run by the Wahabite tribe of Sunni Muslims, who control Mecca, and thus, influence the ideological world of Sunni Islam around the world. Saudi Arabia still has slave markets, and public beheadings by the sword. And yet, people around the world are more concerned about their women having to wear a headscarf. It’s impressive what good PR all that oil money can buy.

While focusing attention on a cultural wardrobe requirement for the fairer sex, Saudi Arabia and other conservative Muslim regimes have distracted enough minds from the real atrocities in their countries, to make observers of the world’s popular quadrennial sports extravaganza give more attention to a piece of fabric, than to the human rights those nations abuse, day in and day out, year after year, without an end in sight.

What mandatory headscarves for its female athletes say about a nation

The contrast of Saudi women having to wear head scarves when competing at the Olympic Games, versus the more liberated women of the Egyptian synchronized swimming team who do not have to wear such fashion accessories, says a lot about the nations from whence they hail.

For one thing, it says that Saudi Arabia is still living in the Dark Ages, when superstition and tradition are more important than science, learning, educated advancement and having an open mind. It says that Saudi Arabia prefers to adhere to the Olden Times and the ways of their ancestors, than to seek a better future for all of its citizens, no matter what their gender, race, creed or sexual preference.

By contrast, the lack of headscarves on the Egyptian women’s athletics teams, says that despite upholding folkloric, cultural religious tradition, they are also determined to actualize a better future; one which is just and allows for the pursuit of happiness. And even though they may seem to be taking a step back by picking a pro-headscarf man as its political head, the evidence to date suggests that the political establishment in the world’s most populous Arab country will not seek to cause deeper social divides by requiring women to wear scarves upon their heads. It seems Mr. Morsi has decided that it is better to maintain a balance between conservatism and liberalism, and that means the old and the new are constantly shifting the weight of popular support back and forth, much like the desert sands around old Pharaoh’s lands.

What it boils down to, is that Egypt has decided to maintain its support of liberal social norms, demonstrated by its ongoing funding of largely exposed female athletes, even as they are governed by a religiously traditional administration, and Saudi Arabia has decided to remain behind the times, as it does by continuing to enforce inhuman laws and punishments against its weakest populations.

As for me, I look forward to the day that no one, no man, woman or child is required to wear any particular piece of clothing, whether in athletic competitions or in day-to-day life, almost as much as I look forward to the end of slavery and human rights abuses around the world.

OOOOOh look … The IOC is all about the money

The IOC protects its IP rabidly.

It’s not as if you didn’t know, right?

Olympic Flag (R) TM Satire

Would it be as funny if it were not so true?

The IOC wants you to show them the money, baby

The Olympic Games are owned and operated by the International Olympic Committees, aka: The IOC, which is a for-profit corporation. They’re in it for the money.

You can’t exactly blame them. The Olympic logo is world-famous, and they have every right and ability to exploit its value for all its worth, even if it means suing small mom and pop shops and businesses that use the word “Olympic” or use any visual that even approximates the famous amateur sports logo.

While it may not be the realization of the dream of Mr. Pierre de Coubertin, who resurrected the ancient Greek tradition of the ultimate pagan celebration of sports in the form of the modern Olympic Games, it is not surprising that the games are in their current state. The Olympics today are riddled with corruption, devoid of their values, and heading as fast as possible down the same track it is currently on.

To know that the IOC is only getting worse in its plans and actions, is more than a little disheartening to the average sports fan. To the person who barely cares about sports at all, it basically is a death knell into the once most highly prized sporting event in the world.

The London 2012 Olympics ~ A personal foreward

The 2012 Olympics

let the games be gin keep calm meme parody remix

Swig that spirit

At the 2012 Olympics in just a few hours from the time of this article being published, the world watching the Summer games will heard the sentence that starts a frenzy of games, competitions, and events celebrating the spirit of *cough, cough* humanity.

“Let the Games begin.” ~ So goes the traditional opening expression of the Olympics supposedly dating back to Ancient Greece, where the ultimate pagan celebration of sports and competition was born.

Are You Ready for the London 2012 Olympics?

london 2012 olympics official logo low-resolution graphic

Faster, Higher, Stronger

It starts tonight. The London Olympics. The 2012 Summer Games. Where world records have already been broken, before the opening ceremonies. Sound interesting yet?

The opening competitions of the London 2012 Olympic Games started off with a couple of world records being broken at Lord’s cricket ground by South Korea’s Archery Team, one of whose athletes is a legally blind man.

Im Dong-hyun, who is a legally-blind archer, broke his own individual record for 72 arrows while his teammates Kim Bub-min and Oh Jin-hyek helped them set a team record for 216 arrows.

It certainly makes for good media fodder, that in the Olympics, anything is possible. It helps the ratings that human achievement pushes itself beyond all known limits, for about three solid weeks in mid-Summer, even if those laser-focused athletes have other personal obstacles, like physical handicaps to overcome.

These Olympic Games got off to a full media blast in the past few months. As the torch made its way from Mount Olympus to London, a great deal of coverage was made about the efforts being made by the host country, England. Great Britain is eager show the world that it provides the best, safest, most pageant-filled “Biggest Show On Earth” celebrating sports in an unprecedented fashion.

This, despite huge failures by the security establishment, allowing for the main contractor to the Olympic Games, G4S, to provide only 70% of the contracted security personnel, with the company being forced to pick up the tab for the cost of the British military picking up the slack. Rest assured, the English will do everything to make these games as safe as possible. Still, it will be a stressful week for anyone involved in the short-term security operations and logistics, especially as they now have to practically improvise about 30% of the security efforts, which would otherwise have been performed routinely, in a scheduled, carefully rehearsed manner.  Tsk, tsk, tsk.

These Olympic Games are also happening on the 40th anniversary of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games, where 11 athletes and coaching staff of the Israeli team were held hostage and then brutally murdered by terrorists in the name of Palestine.

This year, there was a public effort to hold a moment of silence during the opening ceremonies in London, to commemorate those lives taken too early, at a previous Olympics. The moment of silence was publicly rejected by the IOC. After all, they did not respect the victims with any moment of silence at the time of the attacks or anytime since then, so why would they succumb to such public pressure now?

In the politically-challenged world of the International Olympic Committee, honoring its own athletes lost in geopolitical conflicts that erupted in their own facilities, is simply not something they wish to do. And let’s not mince any words here: The moment of silence was rejected because the victims were Jews and the killers were Palestinian Muslims, and in the IOC, Jews – and especially Jews from Israel – are unpopular, while the Muslim populations control more than twenty nations of the sporting world’s elite body, even as they are considered outside of the main by the powers that be. Simply put, these two people are not important enough to the IOC to move the IOC to reflect upon its own history.

To be clear, if, heaven-forbid, a team of Americans, British, French, German, Russian, Chinese or Japanese athletes had been so inhumanely murdered at an Olympic event, you can bet your Official London Games Memorabilia that there would be some kind of official recognition of their sacrifice.

Okay, that’s enough ranting about my favorite human sporting event. As the Ancient Greek showman and philosopher said in I, Claudius, “The theatre never was what it was.”

The show must go on

We hope everyone participating in the Olympic Games of 2012 will have a safe and wonderful experience. The games are always memorable, and this year should be no exception to that fine tradition. World records broken by a sight-challenged competitor striking the target with a bull’s eye have assured that. Now it’s time for sports fans everywhere to enjoy a little pomp and circumstance before the meat of the events begins.

Personally, my athletic experience gives me a bias towards rowing, fencing, and the classic track and field athletics. Horribly elitist sports, I know. Well, that was a long time ago.

What do you like most about the Olympic Games? Sound-off below in the Comments section.