Olympics 2012: IOC bows to pressure for Saudi woman to compete in Muslim headscarf

The Saudi National Olympic Committee is designing a compromise headscarf for her to wear. 
Photo: Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani marches in the center of the Saudi delegation AP

CHARLOTTE, N.C., July 31, 2012 — The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has relented and made an accommodation that will allow Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani of Saudi Arabia to compete in judo wearing a headscarf (hijab).

Judo officials refused to allow the woman to participate, claiming that the covering is dangerous. On a secondary level, it also changes the scope of the sport, which has always had traditional apparel,

Shaherkani initially agreed to remove the hijab but later changed her position when her father insisted that she would withdraw from the games if she were not allowed to compete in appropriate Muslim clothing.

According to the IOC and the International Judo Federation (IJF), an agreement has been reached with the Saudi National Olympic Committee to provide Shaherkani with an acceptable head covering. There is still some uncertainty about what the compromise design will look like.

The IJF’s regulations for the Olympic Games state that no headgear can be worn, and the federation says there could be a danger to fighters if a hijab is inadvertently used for an otherwise legal strangulation.

Shaherkani is schedule to fight in the +78kg category (heavyweight division) on Friday morning.

While the decision provides a temporary solution, the debate continues and a larger controversy looms. Saudi Arabia has made a major national decision to allow women to compete in the Olympics for the first time this year.

On the other side of the question, however, there is a larger factor involving the question of making special accommodations for other athletes in the future. Perhaps more significant, however, is the impact such decisions may have on global concessions to yield to Islamic pressure in areas that reach beyond sports.

This controversy has far-reaching and long-term consequences.

Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in Charlotte, NC. He played professional baseball for four years and was a sportscaster for 14 years at WBTV, the CBS affiliate in Charlotte. Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club, which creates, and escorts customized tours to Switzerland, France and Italy for groups of 12 or more. Inquiries for groups can be made at Peabod@aol.com Taylored Media has produced marketing videos for British Rail, Rail Europe, Switzerland Tourism, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council, the Finnish Tourist Board, the Swiss Travel System and Japan Railways Group among others. As author of The Century Club book, Peabod is now attempting to travel to 100 countries or more during his lifetime. To date he has visited 69 countries. Suggest someplace new for Bob to visit; if you want to know where he has been, check his list on Facebook. Bob plans to write a sequel to his book when he reaches his goal of 100 countries.

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Bob Taylor

Bob Taylor has been travel writer for more than three decades. Following a career as an award winning sports producer/anchor, Taylor’s media production business produced marketing presentations for Switzerland Tourism, Rail Europe, the Finnish Tourist Board, Japan Railways Group, the Swedish Travel & Tourism Council and the Swiss Travel System among others. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com) and his goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.


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