Can a Muslim woman play sports? Not if she’s a virgin, say clerics in Saudi Arabia.
“Religious law does not prohibit [all] women from engaging in sports, but only virgins… Some ‘ulama and religious authorities hold that a girl who is still a virgin must not be allowed to participate in sports, lest her hymen be damaged.”
And the really bad news? These are the rulings of liberal Saudi clerics (which is sort of like saying that Hermann Goering was more liberal than Hitler). The conservative clerics say that no women should be allowed to play sports.
Saudi Mufti Sheikh Abd Al-‘Aziz bin Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh refused to sanction women’s sports, stating that “[such] demand is tantamount to a call for wantonness, for transgressing [the rules of] modesty, and for disobeying [feminine] nature, which Allah instilled in the woman upon creation.”
I wonder what visions – or fantasies – enter the minds of these clerics when they contemplate women playing sports. I’ll bet they don’t visualize fat, ugly women sweating in aerobics. No, it must be svelte, scantily clad supermodels playing tennis. Because in a nation where women are jailed, whipped and beheaded for violating religious laws, that’s exactly the sort of repressed fantasy that a cleric will have.
Why do Muslim clerics (as well as Christian and Jewish fundamentalists) worry so much about women playing sports, women working outside the home, or just women behaving like normal human beings? I think it’s fear. Fear that without the artificial restrictions of law and religion, men can’t compete against women. As a man, I’m embarrassed that anyone would think we need such help. My gender can hold its own just fine. I can defeat my wife in basketball (I hope). I don’t need religion to help me.