Headscarves and soccer

This is a video about a women’s soccer match between Bangladesh and Iran. The players of, mostly Muslim, Bangladesh don’t wear headscarves, while the players of, mostly Muslim, Iran do.

Today, on my way to the botanical garden, passing a basketball court.

A Moroccan Dutch (?) father with his two, about nine-year old, daughters.

Both wearing headscarves.

Presumably, from their family’s interpretation of Islam.

Or is that a prejudice, and are the scarves there for some other reason?

Anyway, the two girls are playing football.

With more skills and enthusiasm than their fellow players, their father and little brother.

Most of the people who would see those girls, and say How terribly all those Muslims oppress their women, are the same people who say about football that it is for blokes only, and that girls should prepare for Miss Preteen beauty contests instead; and that feminism is an ugly women’s thing blah blah blah blah.

They are in the tradition of about a hundred years ago, of Lord Cromer, who was the boss of the anti-women’s suffrage league in Britain, but at the same time sounded very “feminist” in colonial mostly Muslim Egypt, of which he was the governor.

A view by a Pakistani woman on headscarves: here.

Women’s rights and religious ultra orthodoxy in Israel: here.

9 thoughts on “Headscarves and soccer

  1. My first wife was the daughter of a petroleum engineer from Connecticut. She spent much of her childhood in Lebanon. She speaks some Arabic and has studied Islam in depth. She has always maintained that, at least in Lebanon, girls and women are treated with vastly more respect than in the West. She rode her bicycle through Muslim neighborhoods and her parents were never afraid for her safety. She said that women travelling alone in the Middle East are much safer than women travelling alone in the US. Must say this was not borne out by the experience of other friends in N. Africa, but they did not respect local cultural norms–They wore short pants.
    The football animation is really cool.


  2. Hi Jon, thanks for commenting, and all the best to you! I heard something about women with short pants’ problems in countries like Tunisia and Saudi Arabia, both with governments allied to Bush: in Saudi Arabia women without headscarves may get in trouble with the police; in Tunisia, women WITH headscarves may. In Libya as far as I know, neither happens which I think is as it should be. In Libya, women tourists without headscarves are welcome to visit mosques (as long as they take off their shoes like everybody else).


  3. Third Parallel Conference of Forum for Future
    27 ­ 28 November 2006 Amman, Jordan
    Empowerment of women in Election Process

    Prepared by Hamsa Abd El- Hamid Genidy
    Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity Organization (AAPSO)


    Women empowerment has gained weight in various reform projects and initiatives especially those based on the first human development report issued in the Arab World. The report has specified three major deficiencies that hamper the development process: absence of freedom, lack of knowledge, and deterioration of women status in the Arab World.
    Women empowerment means effective involvement of women in decision-making; widening the scope of the available opportunities and options; creation of new opportunities; along with raising awareness of gender equality. It is impossible to consider the issue of women empowerment apart from the social, cultural and political background of the community at large. In addition, any community cannot undergo a real reform or development without giving room for women¹s active participation, particularly political empowerment of women as a milestone of achieving the aspired democracy.
    An examination of reform projects, be they those that emerged as a result of strong internal demands of Arab intellectuals and human rights¹ advocates who have claimed political emancipation for long years; or the initiatives that heavily spread all over the region by foreign countries, reveal that none of them had thoroughly addressed or conducted the desired in-depth analysis on women¹s issue. There is a considerable discrepancy in handling this issue. Hence, the process of women incorporation in decision making and influencing this process is still lagging behind. There are several reasons for and hurdles before women¹s political empowerment – some are attributed to the governing regimes in our Arab countries and others to international conditions and pressures.
    Following are some internal factors delaying women empowerment:
    1. Customs and traditions and the nature of patriarchal culture that feeds discrimination against women as manifest in the posts women assume. Thus, women do not assume the post of President of republic, state or kingdom in the Arab World. Even in labour and professional councils and syndicates which abound in huge numbers of female administrators and executives, the percentage of women declines at leadership and decision-making level.
    2. Deficiency in the implementation of some laws or absence of laws equitable to women. It is true that many Arab countries have issued equitable laws and constitutions and endorsed international conventions and agreements; however, such countries have imposed constraints and triggered mechanisms that hinder the application of theses treaties. Some other countries haven’t treated women fairly enough due to religious or community authorities.
    3. Increase in the rates of illiteracy in addition to limitation of women¹s role in community. Undoubtedly, illiteracy rates are still high in Arab communities ­ particularly amongst women. There is also ignorance of the roles women can play in the community; hence, some decision-making posts are only restricted to men. Moreover, women abstain from nomination and voting out of the firm conviction of their inability to shoulder such responsibility.
    4. Absence of the roles of parties and ignorance of their platforms. Despite the huge number of political parties in our Arab countries, parties have been fragmented through internal conflicts over presidential posts or lack of influence as regards the layman in the street or elsewhere. All these factors weakened the role of political parties and their ability to compete during elections except for a small number.
    These factors were also reflected on the performance of some parties represented in their disinterest to introduce women cadres in elections, considering this adventurous. Instead, they nominate their well-known men cadres. Furthermore, political parties do not give women any leading roles.
    5. Absence or lack of organizations and coalitions supportive of women. Women¹s organizations and associations as well as political parties exist in the Arab World; however, they are poor for several reasons. Such organizations lack the clear and cautious policies that support and motivate women to politically participate in the community through the training programmes and projects. In case such strategy was provided, lack of financial and human resources constitute hindrances before women. Organizations face a big dilemma when addressing all categories of the society due to some laws which restrict their activities or due to their unfelt role in communities where the concept and role of civil society haven’t been soundly and clearly formed. Moreover, lack of coordination and exchange of experience among such organizations poses another obstacle to the political support and empowerment of women.
    6. Lack of models of previously nominated or elected women. Inability to highlight previous experience renders evaluation difficult and consequently same obstacles persist. The election process is always accompanied by propaganda campaigns calling for women¹s participation in election and urging women to nominate or vote for whoever gains their trust. Adversely, as soon as elections are over, the media role comes to an end as if the message of media is restricted only to the event. Consequently, women empowerment issue loses an important pillar.
    The Arab Nation witnesses transitional stages represented in democratic experiences, new in some Arab countries and immature and restricted to formalities rather than essence in other countries. This is clearly reflected on women¹s status in the Arab community. Woman¹s representation in parliaments is very low and might be zero in some countries. Solutions adopted to support women by some organizations failed sometimes when some female MPs were appointed as per quota system, however proved incompetent or inefficient.
    We have noticed that elections in some countries of the region depend on clannish, tribal, or sectarian basis. Regardless of the forms and patterns of electoral systems, whether according to individual nomination, by list or otherwise, female candidates are often vulnerable to sexual harassment; threatened by murder; subjected to assault or insult; some stringent groups may tarnish their reputation; some may hire groups to intimidate women. This made many women including those who previously ran for elections abstain from repeating such experience. In addition, spread of political and administrative corruption; absence of democracy in elections; lack of integrity in real supervision and in scrutineering of votes led further to marginalizing the role of women and deterioration of their status.
    All the above mentioned factors constitute a burden against women¹s political empowerment; women were equally hampered from assuming their role through external factors. Thus, all reform projects and initiatives directed to the region such as the Greater Middle East Initiative calls for establishment of democracy and peace based on citizenship principle and all are equal before law. Such initiatives refer to lack of freedom and knowledge; absence of women empowerment in the Arab World; and this inflames extremism, terrorism, international crime and illegal migration and consequently also threatens the interests G8 countries.
    Therefore, We call for the elimination of the core reasons behind international terrorism in order to realize reform. What we obviously see now is that a certain power tries to control the universe in a cruel and totalitarian means and sometimes depend on military attack and forcible change of some governing regimes in the region or even by less severe means which is seemingly noble under the guise of dissemination of the culture of democracy and respect of human rights principles.
    A good example is the inhuman Israeli aggression currently taking place in Palestine supported by international ominous silence and political blockade that extended to be an unprecedented economic blockade; thus, bank balances were frozen as well as financial and food aids directed to the Palestinian people.
    At the same time, the United States of America provides Israel with ammunition and equipment necessary to violate human rights while the international political arena fails to take any actions against Israel that became obstinate in implementing the United Nations resolutions. Otherwise, why hasn’t Israel stopped building the separating wall after the decision of the International Court of Justice! We have also seen the US desperate attempts to stop issuing a Security Council resolution condemning Israel for Beet Hanon massacre
    Under such practices and pressures against the Palestinian democratically elected government, we wonder how women could be politically empowered to participate in the elections and how could we empower women to serve their community under such a tragic condition.
    The status in Iraq is similar to Palestine. After the big lie of weapons of mass destruction ; unfulfilling the promise that Iraq shall become an example of democracy in the region; admitting the dismal failure of the US project and its allies in Iraq; and after such failure has been a major reason in Democrats¹ access to the Congress ­ Senate and House of Representatives ­ and victory over the Republicans, it is impossible for women empowerment to assume any role under the current status of security deterioration; sectarian, clannish and religious break ups; and the mounting of terrorist acts which continue in Afghanistan with the emergence of El-Qaida and Talaban once more.
    If the current Iraqi constitution granted women some rights, some infidelity charges prevented them from participating in the elections and resulted in the murder of many women ­ thus women are afraid to walk in the street. What we presently witness in the region at the hands of the great states is a serious strategy to divide the region and steal its wealth in the name of freedom and democracy. We cannot overlook the economic policies and procedures through which such states dominate the region using globalization tools including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Bank (WB), and the International Monetary (IMF) which further deteriorated the economic and societal conditions in the Arab World leading to adding injury to the insult of women¹s status and marginalizing their role.
    It is essential that the great states reconsider their policies towards the region under mobilization and take the actions necessary to preserve international peace and security along with giving a greater role to the United Nations (UN). Meanwhile, the governing regimes must try hard to effectuate real internal reforms and encourage pluralism and political participation from all the different factions and segments ­ men and women.
    All organizations and institutions of the civil society must take the initiative to develop a political strategy that fulfills the needs of the community and the claims of women through conducting detailed research works and studies on the weaknesses, strengths and stakeholders required to give momentum to women¹s political participation and empowerment.
    The civil society should also involve in coordination efforts with governmental organizations and private sector to establish funds in support of the election process and raise the awareness of women¹s role in order to increase their participation level in the community.


  4. Woman re-interprets Koran with feminist view
    Thu Mar 22, 2007 8:25pm ET18

    By Manuela Badawy

    NEW YORK (Reuters) – A new English-language interpretation of the Muslim Holy book the Koran challenges the use of words that feminists say have been used to justify the abuse of Islamic women.

    The new version, translated by an Iranian-American, will be published in April and comes after Muslim feminists from around the world gathered in New York last November and vowed to create the first women’s council to interpret the Koran and make the religion more friendly toward women.

    In the new book, Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar, a former lecturer on Islam at the University of Chicago, challenges the translation of the Arab word “idrib,” traditionally translated as “beat,” which feminists say has been used to justify abuse of women.

    “Why choose to interpret the word as ‘to beat’ when it can also mean ‘to go away’,” she writes in the introduction to the new book.

    The passage is generally translated: “And as for those women whose illwill you have reason to fear, admonish them; then leave them alone in bed; then beat them; and if thereupon they pay you heed, do not seek to harm them. Behold, God is indeed most high, great!”

    Instead, Bakhtiar suggests “Husbands at that point should submit to God, let God handle it — go away from them and let God work His Will instead of a human being inflicting pain and suffering on another human being in the Name of God.”



  5. Wearing a burkha
    I took a degree,
    Also took to computers
    And outshone others easily.

    Ammi was happy,
    Abba was very happy.
    Hadn’t I lifted Sinai single-handedly?

    To crush the world underfoot
    was my heart’s desire.
    Each breath said,
    become a conqueror,
    an Alexander in burkha!

    I went out to have fun.
    Entering the cinema
    I was stopped by the moral squad
    wagging their rods.

    Hey young girl,
    burkhas not allowed entry.
    Black smoke rose from my black mask
    and off the burkha went!

    © 2000, Jameela Nishat
    © Translation: 2000, Hoshang Merchant

    Poem of the Week:

    Jameela Nishat page:


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