Story By: Juan Mayes, Sub Editor: Joseph Golder, Agency: Golder’s News And Sport
An Islamic government has banned female athletes from participating in gymnastics events because the sport involves “indecent movements” that break Sharia guidelines.
The guidelines were introduced by Islamic political party Parti Islam Se Malaysia (PAS) which was voted to lead the Malaysian state of Terengganu in 2018.
The guidelines were originally made public in August of last year after PAS was voted into power however Youth, Sports and NGO Development Executive Councillor Wan Sukairi Wan Abdullah said they are slowly being applied as the change would “appear radical” and “people are not robots”.
Abdullah explained to Singapore-based news channel Channel News Asia (CNA) that he did not want “people to see Terengganu as an extreme state like the Taliban” as people can either be “rebellious” or “accepting”.
The guidelines ban female athletes from participating in gymnastics on the basis that they would “display indecent movements” and would wear attire that “exposes their bodies”.
Local media report Terengganu does not plan on sending any female athletes to the biannual national Sukma Games in July 2020 despite sending their largest number of female competitors last year.
Terengganu has instead decided to focus all of their gymnastics efforts on the male athletes hoping that it will raise their chances of winning medals.
Terengganu head coach Ahmad Akramin told local media the female gymnasts are going to continue with their training for now but will have to move to another state or compete with another team if they wish to “fulfil their dreams”.
The decision has not been well-received by many such as Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman who said athletes are “heroes and heroines, regardless of what they wear”.
The National Sports Council (NSC) general director Ahmad Shapawi Ismail said he was concerned over the effects it may have on future women athletes that can make Malaysia proud.
In response to such criticism, Abdullah said “we want to ensure the welfare of our athletes” citing some “negative reports such as molesting or rape involving athletes and their coaches”.
Abdullah went on to say “What is important is how fast you run, now what you wear.”
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