Saturday, July 28, 2012

Wodjan Shahrkhani Putting Safety Last

Asalamu Alaykom,

Do not be fooled by this smiling young lady flashing a peace sign.  Wodjan Shahrkhani is a danger to the Olympics.  Okay, she carried the Saudi flag nicely in the opening ceremony, as you can see.  However, she is not setting even one big toe onto the Judo mats.

At only 18, this competitor needs a little schooling on how The International Judo Federation does things.  While The International Judo Federation allowed her to register as a heavy-weight, they didn't know she would be dressed funny.  Okay, well actually everyone is dressed a little funny for judo (it's like one big pajama party).  I meant funny as in different...ethnic...what I mean is


Judo is a time honored tradition---much older than beach volleyball.  No one is messin' with the martial arts dress code.  The uniforms must conform.  As Johnnie Cochran would say (if he were still alive and defending the The International Judo Federation), "If you must submit, do it in our outfit."

The International Judo Federation has knowledge far superior to ours.  To us?  That thing on Wodjan's head looks like a hijab; the religious veil obligatory for women in Islam.  To them?  It's a Ninja weapon.  She's liable to whip it off her head, summoning forth a blood-curdling scream and wrap up her opponent into submission.  Pray to God she isn't packin' a pin too!

Who allowed this young woman to upset The International Judo Federation?  It was the International Olympic Committee.  The Committe wasn't thinking clearly (wasn't thinking rike honorable Grasshopper) when they issued this statement 10 days ago:

“This is very positive news and we will be delighted to welcome these two athletes in London in a few weeks time.  The IOC has been working very closely with the Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee and I am pleased to see that our continued dialogue has come to fruition. The IOC has been striving to ensure a greater gender balance at the Olympic Games, and today’s news can be seen as an encouraging evolution. With Saudi Arabian female athletes now joining their fellow female competitors from Qatar and Brunei Darussalam, it means that by London 2012 every National Olympic Committee will have sent women to the Olympic Games."

Okay, that's a great "It's a Small World" image of women from all over the globe attending the games but...

Can I ask you something?  How "closely" was the IOC working with Saudi to totally miss the part where the Saudis say their female athletes have to wear hijab?  I really doubt the Saudis neglected to mention it.  Did the IOC think they said, "high jab"?

"Our Saudi girls must at all times be allowed high jabs."


What I do know is that the Saudis are hoppin' mad over this perceived slight.

Obviously The International Judo Federation website must contain strong condemnation of Wodjan.

Take a look:

"It is a great and positive sign for our sport and all the efforts that we are doing to promote gender equality", declared the President Marius Vizer. Actually, the IJF, which is very active to promote equal access to sports for men and women, has been demonstrating over the past years that equality of gender was not simply words. For instance, there is no difference between female and male competition and in all IJF events, men and women are competing based on the same schedule."

Was their site hacked?

REALLY?  They think it's "great and positive"?  They are "doing all they can"?  Who said that? 

The President of The International Judo Federation, Marius Vizer.  Where is he from? 

Ummm...he lives in Austria.

Austria---not the Land of the Kangaroos and Koalas.  That's Australia.

No, Austria is the land of Schwarzenegger.  It's the Alps and "Sound of Music".  Remember that movie? 

Maria is a novice nun (with a thing on her head---but it's a Catholic thing, which is very different from a Muslim thing) and she becomes a nanny to a family of rambunctious kids.  And it's the lead up to WWII and they have to escape the bad guys.  Remember them?  The Nazis.  Ahhh yes, the Nazis.

Does Marius Vizer seem like the type to sing out "Edelweiss" or does he seem like the type to blindly follow the rules regardless of how non-sensical they are?  I'll let you decide.

If you need any help figuring it out, then click here now.

The International Judo Federation will be meeting, no doubt with Herr Vizer in charge, to decide what to do with this most complex of confusing situations.

Muslimah athletes are able to wear hijab while competing in events like running and shooting but Judo is different.  It's more...traditional!  It's more Asian!  It's not...Muslim!  And, "no" you are not allowed to bring up the 10 million Chinese Muslims at this time.  

Judo can't have Wodjan Shahrkhani because that would mean...

that the Olympics are an event which puts aside racial, ethnic and religious differences and has representatives from every nation come together for the common purpose of comradery through sports. 

Naw!  Can't have that!

You want your voice heard?  Tweet Marius   @IntJudoFed  on Twitter and tell him what you think.  Be sure to send a lot!  We want to make sure he hears us.

You might also be interested in seeing the post Wodjan Shahrkhani in a Sports Hijab which shows an example of what she could wear while competing.


Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom,

I'm going to leave the first comment :)

This is satire. It's getting a lot of hits from Saudi and I'm not sure if that's translating or not.

Sometimes we support by showing the absurdity of the situation. That's what I've tried to do.

Obviously, as another hijabi, I am 100% behind Wodjan. It's probably best to be behind her---because being in front of her could get ya a judo chop!

Kidding again!

Oh, man...I'm getting nervous making jokes around Saudis.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom,

This isn't funny:

I am trying REALLY HARD to post my reply in the comments but I'm not sure why it's not working.

Here's what I want to say (and thank God I have a blog where I can post my thoughts regardless of anybody else's site):

Asalamu Alaykom,

Images are powerful things. There was a conscious choice to use the image of women in niqab even though neither one of them Wodjan Shahrkhani. Why is that?

Let's flip the scrip. What if a Saudi writer used a picture of some blonde in a bikini to illustrate a story about American Olympic Swimmer Chloe Sutton? A blonde is a blonde! One woman's identity is interchangable with another because we can't be bothered to view a woman as a person.

Do you get my point? There are pictures available of 18-year-old Wodjan. There's a great one from the Opening Ceremonies which show her smiling and flashing the peace sign. Using her actual image acknowledges her humanity. She's a real person.

I've written a satirical piece about this controversy for my blog:

What I find ironic is that Katie J. M. Baker writes about the "clerics" as if they are the ones wronging her. I don't see proof of that and none is given. Yet, the President of Judo Federation's mandate is definately going against Wodjan's religious beliefs to cover her body as she chooses. It's her choice; a woman's right to chose.

At the time this article was posted, negotiations were still on going. No, the Saudi team officials have not agreed to this violation of Muslim dress code. I don't believe they will. Her match is scheduled for August 3 and thus gives some time for reconsidering.

Many Muslimahs are competing in the games while wearing hijab and I admire them. I am a Muslimah. I do wear hijab.

My Xi Hu said...

It appears your comment was not posted, I will gladly try to post it for you. I am not Muslim, but I think this is unfair to do, if safety is an issue she should be able to sign a waiver and compete. They cannot exclude her for practicing her religion.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom My Xi Hu,

I am really happy you stopped by and commented. Thank you so much for offering to post the comment. I've decided not to keep pursuing it.

In Islam, there's this idea of "mafish naseeb" or no destiny; meaning it wasn't fated. So, I feel this way with my failed comment on Jezebel. I've come to see how nasty it can get on the web and I need my little site to stay relatively peaceful. Interacting too much with those who love to be negative would truly pull me down over time. Inshahallah; God willing, I'll stay on this side of the fence and let the bullies play together.

I'm glad you agree with the absurdity of the Judo Federation. No, you don't have to be Muslim to feel outraged. You just have to have a real understanding of what "Freedom of Religion" means.

And by the are welcome to come to Islam if you'd like :)

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Readers,

I was sent a hate message regarding Wodjan. I'm not going to print it. I decided long ago NOT to entertain small minds in the comment section. There is enough hate in the world. It doesn't need to be here on my blog.

I do want to let you know that the commentor wanted to rate Wodjan's looks. This person couldn't undertand how the hijab works. It works as a protection to that young woman (and all the women who wear it). If we are putting it on with pure intentions, we don't really care so much how our looks are perceived.

Wodjan is competing at the Olympics! She's not in a fashion show, a beauty contest or a music video. She's gone beyond what the basest roles mundane minds can think of. She's gone on to bigger and better things. That's why SHE is in the news whereas Anonymous is...well..anonymous!

As long as the haters in the world chose to project their anger onto easy targets they will never go to the core of the problem. No, the problem isn't Wodjan's looks or the hijab. The problem is the low self-worth some people feel. No one has really reached them with love and understanding. That's sad. Then they turn around and throw those same bad feelings on the next person the perceive as being weaker than them.

I know. I see it every day in kindergarten. The parents teach it to the children by cruel actions, injustice and lack of understanding. The children turn around and try to ape their mom and dad. This is how societies crumble. This is how we become cold and calculated and immune to feelings of love, peace and happiness.

I'm sorry that someone was once so mean to Anonymous that they lost something of that wonderful child they used to be. It's not too late. It's not too late to claim back the person who loved easily and fully.

The first step would be to stop making negative comments about others. When you love others more you will also love yourself more. Trust me. It's the key to moving forward.

I wish Anonymous well. May God guide you to better. You deserve better.

Bill said...

The rules for international judo competition are well known to everyone involved in judo, presumably including Ms. Shaherkani's teacher and the Saudi judo authorities. That she would not be permitted to wear hijab was obvious. The burden was on her and the Saudi authorities to obtain an exemption if possible.

The prohibition of the hijab is not something aimed at Muslims nor is it arbitrary. And contrary to your satire, it is not out of fear that the scarf will be used as a weapon. (Even if she tried that, the use of weapons of any kind is illegal in judo, so she could not possibly profit from such a move.) The real concerns include such things as the fact that the scarf will affect how her opponent can grab her in the neck and shoulder area. In a sport such as judo, where the techniques that may be used are restricted and where the opponent's clothing is used in grappling, non-standard clothing can pose a real disadvantage and in some situations a danger. That's why exemptions are not casually granted. It may be that she could reasonably be permitted to wear hijab, but that is something that should be decided after careful consideration by the IJF, not off the cuff for political reasons.

As to whether a real effort has been made to allow Ms. Shaherkani to compete, I note that she has been allowed to compete without qualifying in the normal way, since there is no qualification process for Saudi women, and indeed without qualifying in a less normal way, as she has no record of international competition of any sort. Indeed, she is patently not qualified to compete at this level as she is not even a shodan ("first degree black belt"). Not only does that mean that she has minimal chance of holding her own, it means that both she and her opponents will be forbidden to use locks as they are not allowed in formal competition below the shodan level. So, yes, I'd say that she and Saudi Arabia have been given considerable special consideration.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Bill,

I REALLY appreciate you reading and commenting. Why? Because you are coming from a place of understanding. It sounds like you have a vast knowledge of the sport and the situation. Thank you for taking the time to write such a well thought out remark.

I've been watching some of the women's Judo in hopes of understanding it more. I was AMAZED at that match with Japan and Russia. The Russian woman won by like 10 to 1.

What I don't know, and maybe you can help me, is about Judo contact with the neck/hair/ears area. This would be covered by hijab. Are competitors allowed to pull any of these parts?

Can you also take a moment to look at sports hijabs? These are made for the sole purpose of making it easy to move and compete.

I'm going to post a picture and I really want your review. I value your input because you sound very logical and methodical in your approach to a problem.

There are other aspects we could address---as you bring up special provisions made. My focus remains on only one issue: the hijab. I was once fired for wearing hijab and discrimination agasint it is an important topic for me.

Is this discrimination? Maybe we don't know all that was said behind the scenes. What I feel (you know how we women "feel out" a sitation) is that it quacks like a duck. I feel and added element of discrimination in how the Federation is not able to find compromise. However, I'll say again that it's hard for me to know what all has gone on.

I'll go ahead and post the picture. If you could take a look and get back to me that would be great.

My Thanks!

Amendoim Kamikaze said...

IT is not a question of discrimination or not - it is a question of her own safety. I was thrilled to know Saudi Arabia was sending women to the Olympics, because it might signify that a country with otherwise such inhumane treatment of women may be reaching a turning point. But in this case, this athlete risks serious injury.
All the judo equipment was specifically made and developed so that only the martial art itself would get in the way. You can do pretty much anything in terms of fighting, and grip wherever there is fabric. A woman with a hijab on her head would pose a danger to herself, far greater than the danger of not complying with her religious views.

Amendoim Kamikaze said...

Oh and another thing - in response to your last comment: yes, judo involves a LOT of neck action. A lot of moves revolve around throwing down your opponent whilst grabbing his/her neck, or by strangling them. Now, this would make it much harder for the Saudi athlete to overcome (would she be constantly requesting a time-out to put her hijab back in place?) or much easier (the fabric would not let the opponent's hand get a proper grip).

I'm thrilled to see this girl (she's only 18) compete, and can't wait to see her fight, but would hate it if the first Saudi woman to be sent to the Olympics went home without putting up a real good fight. Furthermore, I would hate to have her win unjustly, with the opponent's constantly requesting rematches, because they cannot fight properly.

The main message to get across is that we're all behind this woman, and we all want to see her fight. But the Olympics is not about posing a danger to oneself or to someone else!

Amendoim Kamikaze said...

Oh and another thing - I am a judoca, so this is how I know what I'm talking about. Very dangerous business to wear anything other than the proper equipment.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Amendoim,

I see you're from Portugal! Nice to have you here commenting...three times. Don't you hate it when you click and THEN think of one more thing?!

I really appreciate you voicing your opinion. As long as people are respectful, I will print all perspectives. You know, from your experience, how Judo is done. I grant you that. However, I would REALLY like you to take a look at:

I posted this to show a sports hijab being used in Judo. Can you imagine this working? If not, please explain why. I am very curious.

I think part of the problem is that Wodjan is being shown in pictures wearing her regular clothes and oF COURSE that wafting black cotton scarf is an impossibility on the mat. I know that but I wonder if the public understands that. Amendoim, did you think she was going to wear that black scarf in the competition? I'd like to know.

You have a valid question, "Would she be constantly requesting a time-out to put her hijab back in place?"

Let's find out! That's part of what the games are about. Can a 12-year-old girl handle the stress of the gymnastics routines? Can a cancer survivor really do those jumps? It's seeing how the human condition handles the moment. Let's give Wodjan HER moment :)

I'm glad you are supportive of Saudi women competing. Equal rights for these ladies means accomodating their needs. I think that an Olympics which allows bikinis on the American Women's Volleyball team can find a way to allow this as well.

Diamond_USA said...

You sound ignorant. Asian federations HAVE allowed women in hijab compete in their forums many times. Get your facts straight. How about this, then, DON'T STRESS SAUDI ARABIA TO SEND WOMEN TO THE OLYMPICS IF THEIR RELIGIOUS OBSERVATIONS CANNOT BE RESPECTED. Bunch of dumb-a$$es, SMH

Diamond_USA said...

Asian federations HAVE allowed women to compete in hijab. There are modified versions of the hijab available. If the International Olympic Committee cannot respect Saudi Arabia's religious observance, then WHY DOES THE WORLD PERSIST IN CRYING OUT ALLEGED OPPRESSION?? HONESTLY, AS A MUSLIM, I FEEL THAT THE ISLAMOPHOBIA IS BECOMING STIFLING!

Diamond_USA said...

I apologize if I was offensive... I get very angry at the thought of the way Muslims are mistreated internationally. France is the worst of the offenders of Islam, too. I wouldn't buy anything made in France because of their lack of altruism in regards to Islam. I act as if they don't even exist.

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Diamond, do you REALLY feel?

Hot topic, right?

It's OK. I understand your anger. Most of us get angrier when we feel someone else is suffering an injustice than if we were ourselves.

You bring up some really good points. I wish that I had some more information about the Asian Federations allowing hijab.

I have posted the photo of a Resporton hijab for judo. It actually looks SAFER for competition than pulling hair back in elastic.

I agree that the world wants to point fingers at "oppressive Saudi Arabia" and then actually oppress the Saudi women MORE by being so stubborn. Most problems can be worked through and worked out BUT nothing gets accomplished being immovable.

Why is there Islamophobia? Because we all have a human nature to hate "them". It is only through our faith in God that we let go of this feeling of seperateness. We are ALL more alike than different. We all come from The One.

I am glad that you posted your third comment appologizing. When people are offensive, we don't need to go out do them in our own offensiveness. Dawaa, the spread of information on Islam, must be done with adab; ettiquette. We can get more across to others when we aren't shouting for them they will only cover their ears.

If you are interested in the French Muslims, take a look at my post

Now, that is one powerful way of making dawaa and sending a message.

I wish you peace, Diamond. Whatever upset you have, be content that Allah knows every action and intention in this drama and will judge accordingly. Alhumdulillah.

Ramadan Kareem :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting how she's showing the sign of peace with her right hand while waving a flag with a sword on it?

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Anonymous,

Thanks for commenting. It's always intersting to hear what others are picking up in the story that I miss.

Honestly? To me, it didn't even register that there was an irony in that. I am so used to seeing that Saudi flag.

Maybe if you're not used to seeing it, then it seems like an antithesis to her peace sign. I can understand that.