Should men-only Muslim teams be barred from the Olympics?

May 21, 2008

Saudi Arabia’s all-men team at the opening of the Athens 2004 Olympic Games,13 Aug 2004/Wolfgang RattayShould some Islamic countries be barred from the Beijing Olympics? The question came up in an interesting op-ed piece this week arguing that countries that ban women from competing in sports events violate the Olympic Charter and thus should be excluded from the Games. As Ali Al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, wrote in the International Herald Tribune:

The procession of the Olympic torch drew protests from Paris to San Francisco over China’s treatment of the Tibetan people, but no one has protested another tragedy that is afflicting millions of women in Saudi Arabia, Iran and other Muslim countries. Many Muslim women dare not even dream of the Olympics because their countries ban female sports altogether or severely restrict the athletic activities of the “weaker sex.”

The International Olympic Committee charter states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

Iran’s Maryam Toosi competes with head covering and sweat pants at Asian Athletics Championship in Amman, 26 July 2007/Muhammad HamedBut the Olympic Committee is failing to adhere to its own standards. While the hypothetical example of participating countries barring black athletes from the Olympic Games would have rightly caused international outrage, the committee continues to allow the participation of countries that do not allow women on their Olympic teams.

Countries with men-only Olympic teams include Brunei, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. According to their respective governments, women are barred from Olympic participation for “cultural and religious reasons.”

This raises some interesing questions about Islam and sports.  Al Ahmed says those countries barring women from the Olympics cite “cultural and religious reasons” for doing so. If there are 56 members of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), that means that over 50 other Muslim countries do not agree with the idea of banning women from sports competition. So is the opposition from Brunei, Saudi Arabia and the UAE simply cultural? And if so, is it valid for those countries to cite Islam as a reason for their decision?

An Olympic volleyball player practises during a training session in Algiers, 17 March, 2008/Zohra Bensemra/The Olympic Charter clearly states in its Fundamental Principles of Olympism that sex discrimination violates the Olympic spirit. But obviously the International Olympic Committee is not enforcing this rule and the men-only teams are not respecting it. Should the IOC put its foot down and demand compliance?

Another interesting aspect that Al Ahmed mentions is that the number of men-only teams is falling– “from 35 in Barcelona in 1992 to 26 in Atlanta in 1996 to only 10 in Sydney in 2000 and four or five at the last Olympics in Athens.” One country in those statistics is Algeria — a recent feature by our North Africa chief correspondent William Maclean tells the story.

Al Ahmed has an optimistic conclusion:

“If the IOC is pressed to live up to its own standards, the London Games in 2012 should witness the celebration of female Olympians from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and other Muslim countries.”

Can this change that quickly? Let us know what you think.


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Of course they should be barred! It’s about time Muslim-dominated countries are forced to uphold the Universal Declaration on Human Rights or are shunned and given the disrepect they deserve!

Posted by Stephanie | Report as abusive

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Posted by DYSPEPSIA GENERATION » Blog Archive » Should men-only Muslim teams be barred from the Olympics? | Report as abusive

I agree: such teams should be barred. One cannot use religious beliefs or “culture” as an excuse for discrimination. The Olympic Committee should enforce its policy.

Posted by Keith Harrison | Report as abusive

ABSOLUTELY THEY SHOULD BE BARRED. The olympic committee SHOULD NEVER HAVE GIVEN THE GAMES TO CHINA WITH THEIR RECORD OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION AND THEIR JAILING OF PEOPLE OF POLITICAL PARTIES THEY DON’T LIKE, THEY MUST HAVE HAD THEIR HEADS UP THEIR BUTTS WHEN THEN MADE THAT DECISION, they also descriminate against religion, so why did the IOC turn a blind eye to these discrimatory acts what about teanamin [sorry spelling] square what about the dali lama, and there are so many other things that they do in human rights violations. YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT THEY WOULD HAVE LEARNED FROM THE NAZI INCIDENT WITH HITLER, china has far too many problems with human right violations to have been given the olympics and yet the IOC turned a blind eye to what china does that is why a few muslim countries have been allowed to get away with it. SOUNDS TO ME LIKE ALL THE RIGHT PALMS HAVE BEEN GREASED TO LOOK THE OTHER WAY, AND DON’T SAY IT DOESN’T HAPPEN IT HAPPENED NOT TO LONG AGO, SO THE IOC IS NOTHING BUT A DISCRIMATORY BOARD

Posted by mollyrambo57 | Report as abusive

This frigtards’ next story: Should countries engaged in torturing captives from unethical wars be barred from participating in the Olympics?

Posted by levi civita | Report as abusive

“…the committee continues to allow the participation of countries that do not allow women on their Olympic teams…”

Countries are sovereign states and should be allowed to determine who participates on behalf of their country.

The real question is why did the Olympic Committee decide to have the Olympics in the country of China?

The environmental conditions in China are as polluted as the politicians. This location is no place to hold a worldwide event.

Under the theme of “Journey of Harmony,” the Chinese government has shown us something much more important than sovereign discrimination that is beyond our control — the “Journey of Harmony: has shown us that China, like Burma, does not respect basic human rights.

Posted by Dave Horsting | Report as abusive

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is both the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet. At the age of two he was declared the 14th Dalai Lama. Now, at the age of 73, he has spent 50 years outside of his country.

Meanwhile, the 15th Dalai Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima, turned 19 years old on 4/25/2008. He has been held captive by the Chinese government for over 80% of his life.

His Holiness has asked the world to provide fundamental human rights, peace and compassion to all human beings. His Holiness has also asked us to ensure we all “Let the Games Begin”.


Posted by Dave Horsting | Report as abusive

In perspective, I think this has been the most controversial Olympics so far. There are a number of issues to be discussed and to be addressed. However, I believe that having China as the host nation is an advantage. It fully magnified the Tibet issue which remains unresolved for years now and it has also raised awareness on China’s environmental problems which is an epitome of the environmental issues that the world is facing today.

Posted by jaybumotad | Report as abusive

I agree, China should be barred from the Olympics because they discriminate against their Tibetan and Uighur minorities, muslim countries espousing sexism for “cultural reasons” should be expelled, and the US should be expelled for committing the supreme crime of aggressive war and for being responsible for a genocide in Iraq that has seen over 1 000 000 killed and 4 000 000 lose their homes. To put that in perspective its like 10 million Americans losing their lives and 40 million losing their homes. The tragedy here is that the Olympics can’t really go on anymore, our world, especially our corporate and government leaders, is too corrupt, greedy, and murderous to sustain the Olympic ideals any longer.

Posted by Stephan | Report as abusive

Most nation states are soveriegn and practice the laws their people want. In case certain nations do not appreciate the type of dresses and other gears in which sportsmen and women appear in public do not comply with the cultural and ideological value of some people they may be allowed to follow their princples.

In fact the world at large, especially led by the cultural leadership of Anglo Saxons is getting closer to nudism, exposures of female sportswomen rather erotically. The continuing of olympic flame reminds us of the sun worshiping idolators. It should not be aloowed any further.

When we allow gays and lisbians on the sports field, an untaural act why cannot female sportwomen decently drseed be permitted.

I feel now is the time that we should respect our female and not use them a s means for advertisements and sexual eroticism.

Finally, Muslims are a people who practice their religion more religiously and the values some Muslim countries want to protect are enjoined by their religion. They should be permitted to practice what is obligatory for them.

Posted by Tariq Mahmood | Report as abusive

When comes down to the basic human rights issue yes they should be barred. (Religion has nothing to do with it because other muslim women are competing!) However, if they are allowed to compete and see what the real world is like outside of their very sheltered one, they actually may get a little bit more educated on basic common decency and how to view fellow human beings – especially females, in a more mature and intelligent way (fingers crossed). They may also learn by changing the medievel attitudes towards females, and not being afraid that some women can actually ‘do things’, including wining olympic medals, may be advantagous. Until these countries realise this they are severely limiting their opportunities to win medals. Putting myself in the shoes of an ignorant chauvanist where my arrogance equals my narcissistic and poorly educated attitude towards the female gender, I guess I too would feel threatened and upset if females were allowed to compete and possibly ‘do better than’ me. How dare they try to look better than me, my whole manhood would be forever affected. I must protest and show the whole world how pathetically insecure I really am and how easily my self-esteem has been permanantly shattered. Ooh, I can always get it back by the good old honour killing. But of course such ignorance may be too resistant to suggestions only, of change for the better. They should be given the chance.

Posted by Conscientious Observer | Report as abusive

Perhaps making title9 part of the Olympic rule would help? But then what about Religious Freedom. In Humboldt County California there is a track and field team made up of “Religious” folks with the name “Respect”. I watch a young “Religious” woman run track in a dress that meets the standards of thier religion. She won the race and in a race against some boys her age she wond that race too. In the end “Life and love will find a way to win the race”. Perhaps new uniforms would help? Religious people do have right to have thier religion respected even in the Olympics. It was not so long ago that American’s didn’t let American women athletics with respect. Is you school following the rules written into Title IX ???

Posted by title9guy | Report as abusive

Why are men so afraid of women? We are just as human as men, maybe even the superior sex if there is such a thing. It’s time for women to be given their due in this world and not be considered as second class or property. It is also time for our species to grow up and out of the delusion of religion which is used to suppress womankind. Women athletes should be unfettered across all nations of this planet and given the same rights and privileges as any male.

Posted by Human and Female | Report as abusive

Why the continual effort to drive a wedge between the Islamic world and the rest? Is it solving anything? Who benefits? Would the world be a better place if everybody did things the same way?

Posted by Peter H | Report as abusive

[…] clamps down on Gypsies (John Hooper, Guardian) Indian cricket boss bans black dancers (The Sun) Should men-only Muslim teams be barred from the Olympics? (Tom Heneghan, FaithWorld) Yeah, I thought it was you! […]

Posted by “There are foreign nationals in our cells every day of the week.” « The Cultural Anarchlyst | Report as abusive

Iranian women athletes presence is against Islamic values!

Posted by Fariborz Shamshiri | Report as abusive

United Arab Emirates has sent female to particpate Beijing Olympics

Posted by nazar | Report as abusive

[…] Many sites pointed out that some feel that the countries that allow men-only Olympic teams should be barred. Unfortunately the only countries which outright ban women from participating in the Olympics are Muslim countries – Saudi Arabia (surprise, surprise) and Brunei (and until recently the U.A.E). In a well written criticism Ali Al-Ahmed states that While the hypothetical example of participating countries barring black athletes from the Olympic Games would have rightly caused international outrage, the committee continues to allow the participation of countries that do not allow women on their Olympic teams. […]

Posted by Muslimahs at the Beijing Olympics « Muslimah Media Watch | Report as abusive