Saudi Arabia turns deaf ear to Olympic women

This is not just about including Saudi women in the London 2012. It’s much more far-reaching and serious than that. It is an issue of silence and concurrence from the international community regarding a nation’s outright breach of international agreements and conventions.

Last Friday Sheikh Al Fowzan, ironically a member of the Saudi human rights commission, stated that the thought that the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) might be implemented in Saudi Arabia makes him shiver in fear and worry. This was during the last day of a three-day conference that took place in Qaseem, a region north of Riyadh. The conference was entitled, 'Women in the Prophet’s tradition and the modern woman: Saudi Arabia a model', and had fifteen countries participating. The assembled company came to the conclusion that Saudi Arabia should withdraw from the CEDAW agreement that it signed in 2000 -  a development probably due to the religious establishment’s feeling that the government might cave in to increasing international pressure to allow Saudi women to participate in the upcoming London 2012 Olympics.

Those within Saudi who oppose the inclusion of women reason that although there is nothing in Islam that prohibits women from physical activity or even competitive sports, the future implications and consequences might be unIslamic. A paranoia has overtaken Saudi conservatives as if once a woman officially represents the country, all Saudi women at a stroke will be forced to take part and Muslim women will be parading around in swimsuits and volleyball outfits. They turn a deaf ear to anyone who argues that it clearly states in the Quran in the second chapter ayah 256 that there is no compulsion in religion. This is a nation of about nineteen million Saudis and it is unequivocally unIslamic to force only one narrow puritanical interpretation of texts on all.

Saudi Arabia still has not officially conceded to allowing women to represent them at the Olympics..

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