The safety requirements of the FIFA strangle women in the Islamic countries

Posted on 17 juni 2011

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The safety requirements of the FIFA give women from Islamic countries no chance to participate in the Olympic Games. You are not allowed to wear a neck covering so scarves that cover the neck are prohibited. The reason given for this is that a player can accidentally or intentionally pull at the scarf of a fellow player which could strangle her.

However, the question is whether all scarves that cover the neck are dangerous. I know from my own experience that people can cover the head and neck in
different ways. For instance, you can wear a shirt with a cap or hood – like swimmers wear – or a scarf called a Maghnaeh, a scarf not tied to the neck but which hangs over the shoulders. In both cases you don’t run the risk of being strangled. Leave it to Muslim designers and they will come up with a risk-free cloth in no time, meeting the strict requirements of Islamic regimes and the safety requirements of FIFA. This could be the solution to the security excuse.

Undoubtedly there will be well-meant slogans – usually made up by men – which in this way try to liberate Muslim women from oppression. The thought behind this being that if you forbid women wearing a headscarf to participate in the Olympics Games , their governments will give them permission to play without a headscarf. Then we have liberated at least one group of oppressed women.

Even if I assume that all these women are oppressed by their governments, this seems a very naive assumption. Any such oppressive system will not yield to any rules. An oppressive system does not grant the wishes of its own people, let alone those of outsiders. In a country like Iran women get a whipping if they don’t wear headscarves. Does FIFA really expect that an Islamic government will let women play football without headscarves?

For decades Iranian women have tried to become independent and self-confident women under a strict Islamic regime which has robbed them from all their
individual freedoms. Female lawyers in Iran risk their freedom and their lives to find some loopholes within Islamic law to provide their female clients a little room for individual development. Thanks to their efforts women are allowed to participate in various sports, including women’s soccer. Most of these women would love to play with an uncovered head and neck but that is and remains impossible. If we ban them because they wear their compulsory headscarves we prevent them from further development. As a result it is very difficult or even impossible to be part of international cultural and sporting activities, and that pushes these women even further away in their isolation.

If we want to help countries like Iran towards democracy, we should not further isolate their people. The Iranian government welcomes the increased cultural isolation. It uses every excuse to protect its people from Western influences. The Olympic Games are a symbol of the Western way of thinking. Iran would certainly not regret it if its people keep their distance from this symbol. The ban on headscarves does not punish the Islamic regime but mainly the women who usually suffer under that regime. Metaphorically they are being strangled before they are actually strangled.
Democracy and culture are inseparable. Let the culture change from within, democracy will come naturally.

See to it that the Iranian women can participate in the Olympics Games . Let them believe in their strength as independent people who can help overthrow oppressive systems. I admit that to overthrow the oppressive system in that country may take decades, but they are well on their
way.

Let go of the scarf, just like those women who have left it and have been focusing on their further development.