CAIRO - As sports fans countdown to the launch of the Islamic Olympics, organizers of the awaited event have confirmed their respect of the freedom of athletes of all faiths, adding that they will not impose Islamic dress code on participants.
ISG is not a sports event exclusively for Muslim athletes. This is an event for countries, not bogged down by religious faiths, Djoko Pramono, chairman of the central organizers of the 3rd Islamic Solidarity Games (ISG) was quoted by The Jakarta Post on Wednesday, September 18.
Several participating countries have included in their contingent a number of non-Muslim athletes.
Considered as the Muslims' Olympics, ISG is an Islamic multi-sport event in which athletes compete from 44 countries of the Organization of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
Held every four years, the event is scheduled to run From September 22, to October 1, in Palembang, Indonesia.
The games have become a solace where Muslim athletes were given freedom to compete while donning their Islamic veil.
The issue of hijab, which Islam sees as an obligatory code of dress not a religious symbol, in sports was thrust into the spotlight in the West recently.
In London Olympics last year, Muslim athletes found themselves unwelcome in a competition because they insisted on wearing Muslim attire while competing.
A judo athlete was rejected by the federation during the London Olympics.
Last January, an American high-school Muslim star runner was pulled out from a local competition for wearing hijab.
Yet, the organizers of the event confirmed that international rules would be respected in the game, respecting the diversity of faiths participating in the event.
We cannot ban the rules applied by the international body. But if Muslim athletes want to wear a head scarf, they may do so, Muddai Madang, chairman of the local organizers, said in Jakarta on Tuesday after attending the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the disbursement of funds for the game organizers.
Non Muslim athletes please use international rules, he said.
Participating in the games, Jamal Abu Shamallah, one of non-Muslim athletes in the Palestinian team, said their coaches never questioned whether he was Muslim or not.
We are in the same team and always together to fight for our country, Jamal said.
Basketball team manager Aziz Mohammad Ali said that non-Muslim athletes made up 20 percent of the team.
It's no different whether Muslim or not Muslim. We are the same because it is not religion games but nations' games, he said.
Hosted by Palembang, South Sumatra, in Indonesia, the event features 13 different sports including, athletics, basketball, equestrian, fencing, football, handball, karate, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting.
A total 1,530 medal will be awarded to winners among 3,200 athletes and officials.
The basketball competition already began its matches on Sunday while soccer matches will start as early as Thursday.
Counting down to the games, local residents were very enthusiastic.
We are glad about the ISG. They will spend money in this souvenir market, won't they? Kito, one of the souvenir market stall owners said.