Thanks to Katherine Zoepf of the New York Times, I've learned about an issue that should be of interest to all of us who took sports and physical activity for granted as just another unremarkable part of life as an American woman.
Physical activity is forbidden in Saudi Arabia's state-run girls' schools, and conservative Muslims consider sports for women either immodest or (potentially) immoral. A few large Saudi cities have gyms where women can workout, but they are usually unmarked to avoid attention.
So here comes the kicker. Saudi Arabia (like Brunei and Qatar) does not permit women to compete in international athletic competitions, which means no women can be part of the Olympic Games.
The man pictured above is Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi dissident, who directs the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C.. Three months ago, he began a campaign called No Women, No Play, with the goal of urging the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to suspend Saudi Arabia from future competitions until women are allowed to participate.
Critics might consider this a case of feminism gone wild, but the precedent was set in 1964, when the IOC banned South Africa because of apartheid. The Olympic Charter states, "... sport is a human right..." and "... discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement."
Ms. Maeena has tried to put a good face on her country's restrictive approach by arguing that the U.S. didn't give women "equal rights" in sports until Title IX passed in 1972. And while that "equality" changed academic sports, the truth is that American women had been participating in sports and competing in the Olympics decades earlier.
How lucky we are that our grandmothers and granddaughters were and are able to play tennis, golf, ride, run, and compete without fear of government reprisal. Hats off to Dalma Malhas!
Looking forward to your comments...