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Olympic Judokas Back Hijab Right

Published: 08/08/2012 04:18:42 PM GMT
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LONDON - Top female judo fighters have thrown their weight behind a decision to allow a Saudi athlete to compete at the London Olympic Games wearing hijab (Islamic headscarf). I think it's no problem for us,” Slovenia's Ur (more)

LONDON - Top female judo fighters have thrown their weight behind a decision to allow a Saudi athlete to compete at the London Olympic Games wearing hijab (Islamic headscarf).

"I think it's no problem for us,” Slovenia's Urska Zolnir, who won gold in the women's -63kg judo category on Tuesday, July 31, was quoted as saying by Reuters.

“It might be a problem for her. But I can't see why she shouldn't have it."

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A controversy has emerged over the wearing of hijab in Judo competitions after the sport's governing body banned a Saudi athlete from wearing the outfit during the Games.

The International Judo Federation (IJF) argued that its regulations forbade headgear because a fighter could be accidentally choked during the rough, physical contests in which strangling an opponent using their judo outfit is legal.

But the decision prompted Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim, 16, one of the first two Saudi women competing at the Olympics, to threaten to withdraw from the competition.

Bu a compromise was struck on Monday between judo chiefs, Olympic bosses and Saudis, allowing the Muslim athlete to take part in the women's heavyweight section on Friday wearing hijab.

A Saudi National Olympic Committee spokesman said on Monday they had agreed on an acceptable form of headscarf with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IJF.

The IJF said it was pleased that a solution had been found.

"Working with the IOC a proposal was approved by all parties," it said in a statement.

"The solution agreed guarantees a good balance between safety and cultural considerations."

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.

Good Step

Female Judokas said that allowing hijab in the Olympic competitions would be good for women's sport.

"We all want judo to be more democratic and it would be a good thing if more women were allowed to practice judo," said France's Gervise Emane, the world champion who won bronze on Tuesday.

"So if this right has been given to her and it allows her to do more sport, so be it."

The French judoka said that hijab would not disturb athletes.

"I don't think this would disturb us very much," Emane said.

"It would possibly be a drawback for her when competing."

Eva Csernoviczki, a Hungarian judo fighter, echoed a similar view.

“If (Shahrkhani) wears a tight-fitting headscarf, that would be fine, as long as it is close to the body,” said Csernoviczki, who has won a bronze medal.

“But if she's wearing a looser one, that should not be allowed. It is too loose and could be difficult for other judo players to grip her. … It could also be dangerous if you grab her headscarf accidentally and try to choke or strangle her because it could get in the way.”

Hijab shined during Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 when many Muslim women athletes broke Western stereotypes, proving that donning hijab is not an obstacle to excelling in life and sports.During the games, half a dozen veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni competed in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery.

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