Refusal to Allow Saudi Olympian to Wear Headscarf in Judo Competition Criticized

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- An official with Human Rights Watch says it would be a shame if one of two Saudi women competing in the Olympics won't be allowed to compete because she wears a hijab (hih-jahb), the headscarf worn by some Muslim women.
Human Rights Watch global initiative director Minky Worden says the ruling could hurt efforts to ease restrictions against women and girls engaging in sports in Saudi Arabia.
The International Judo Federation says it won't allow the scarf to be worn during competition because it does not meet with "the principles and spirit of judo" and that "the hijab could be dangerous" because Judo includes the use of strangleholds and chokeholds.
Asian judo federations have previously allowed Muslim women to wear the hijab during major competitions.
Saudi leaders only agreed to send women to the games for the first time on the condition they be allowed to wear appropriate clothing for Muslim women. Headscarves are allowed in taekwondo because the World Taekwondo Federation changed its rules in recent years to accommodate Islamic traditions. But all taekwondo fighters also wear a head guard which covers any headscarves.
Saudi Arabia's other female Olympic athlete is expected wear a headscarf when she competes in distance running.

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