The International Judo Federation confirmed that Wijdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani, one of Saudi
Arabia's first female athletes selected for the Olympics, will not be allowed to wear a headscarf, a "hijab", during her judo competition.
In Arabic, "hijab" translates to, among other meanings, a "form of modesty, or curtain of privacy, a veil that instructs a woman to
cover her body and walk and dress in a way that does not draw sexual attention to her."
for the Judo Federation cautioned that "In judo we use strangleholds and chokeholds, so the hijab could be dangerous." He added, "The
Japanese martial arts does not recognize differences in things like politics or religion and judges competition only on the level
of judo. The only difference between competitors in this grappling and throwing sport should be their level of judo."
There were streams of responses, and as far as I could tell they were almost all in agreement with the ruling by the Federation, which
could jeopardize Shahrkhani's participation at The Games. She was, after all, given a special invitation from the International Olympic
Committee to compete in London. To some, this implied that the Committee felt she was not really qualified to compete, but for some
reason, political or sexual or whatever, they would allow her to give it a go. The responses were firm, aggressive, and to the point.
"Give her a swimming cap and let her compete."
"Let them form their own Olympics."
"Go home then, if you can't follow the
"This reminds me of the Arab woman who insisted on wearing a veil covering
her face for her driving license picture."
"Islam doesn't respect other religions,
why should they be respected?"
"OK then, I get to wear a football helmet in
a boxing match because of my religion."
"If you can't follow the rules, don't
play. And objections to this from a country that treats their cattle better than their women."
And hundreds more like this.
Of course, just because the streams of "Way to go Judo Federation!"
might even outnumber the no vote by a thousand to one, that doesn't make their decision necessarily sensitive or fair. Yet does it
have to be? Whether the decision not to let Shahrkhani feel comfortable with her hijab, while she grunts and groans during a judo
match, is motivated by religion, politics, or sex, doesn't the fact remain that the safety of the contestants at the Olympics should
trump all other considerations. And those who know judo were vocal in their support of the decision based on that criteria alone.
And some voiced the opinion that, "At last, someone had enough guts to stand and deliver and not be influenced and did not fear any
so-called 'politically correct' motives of another group playing the race or religion card at every turn. I say, "Bravo, Judo Federation!"