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.
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