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Monday, November 21, 2011

Will Saudi Arabia field a women's Olympic team?

From Al Arabiya:
Saudi Arabia plans to send a female equestrian team to the 2012 Summer Olympics in London to avoid being barred from taking part in the competitions, Saudi media sources reported on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia's Dalma Rushdi Malhas
Saudi Arabia always sent exclusively male teams to Olympic Games as the kingdom restricts the participation of women in sports and doesn't allow them to participate in Olympic Games.

Anita DeFrantz, chair of the International Olympic Committee's Women and Sports Commission, had warned Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei in June 2010 that they could be barred from the 2012 Olympics if they don't send in female athletes for the first time.

Qatar agreed to include women in its 2012 Olympic delegation, increasing pressure on its conservative Muslim neighbor, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s al-Shorouq reported that the Kingdom is likely to participate in the Olympics with equestrienne Dalma Rushdi Malhas, 18, who took part in several international competitions and won a bronze medal in the 2010 Singapore Youth Olympics.
But not all Saudis are happy. A Saudi cleric, Sheikh Mohammed Nujaimi of the Islamic Fiqh Academy, has declared that Saudi Arabia should not send any women to the Olympics, and submit to Western blackmail. He said that just like Saudi Arabia became a member of the World Trade Organization without betraying its principles (presumably its Israel boycott) it should stick to its guns.

Interestingly, the commenters in Arabic on the latter story are pretty much unanimous that there is no problem with a women's equestrian team - especially since horse-riding is considered a noble Arab and Muslim pastime.