No bar on women’s sports activity in Shariah: Saudi Scholar


Al Hakami’s comments came in the light of controversy surrounding the issue of all-female sports clubs, which the Shoura Council recommended be set up some time ago.

“There is nothing stopping setting up women’s sports clubs provided nothing forbidden by Shariah occurs, such as mixing with men, exposing what should not be exposed, and other issues forbidden by Shariah,” Al Hakami was reported as saying.

In a previous statement, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Suleiman Al Manee, also a member of the Board of Senior Ulema, had also said it was permissible for women to exercise provided they abided by the rules of Shariah.

“These are very welcome developments. Women’s sport is a necessity, not an option any more. For a long time the world has looked on Saudi women as just women who don’t have identity. It is a segment in the community and it does represent the society,” Lina Almaeena, who formed the Jaguars, the first women’s basketball team in Saudi Arabia, which has now leaped into the full-fledged Jeddah United Sports team, told Khaleej Times.

“Sport is a unifying factor in the world. Civilisation is measured by sport performances. This is the era of gold medals and what it represents to a nation,” she said.

“I realised the health issues that we have in the Saudi society,” Almaeena said explaining the objective of Jeddah United Sports (JUS).

“We have very high rate of obesity, diabetes, (one out of four kids suffer from diabetes), and all the related health issues such as heart problems, cholesterol, osteoporosis (80 per cent to 90 per cent women suffer from this disease), which is unfortunate. This happens despite Saudi Arabia being a country with a lot of sun, just because of the lack of exercise. They also suffer from depression,” she added.

Almaeena, who has a master’s degree in psychology from the American University in London, said her 2005 MA thesis was specific to women — body dismorphic disorders (BDD), body image disorders — how women have distorted interpretation of their bodies because of the pressures — media pressure, social pressure such as that if they are not married by a certain age, they are considered old.

It was the first such study in Saudi Arabia. The cross-country study monitored the level of this disorder.

She explained in her thesis that sports and regular exercise is an anti-depressant to a lot of the psychological and mental stresses that women go through. She stressed that regular exercise is a number one anti-depressant for women, specifically, and for men, and teens as well.

People with BDD not just feel insecure, but also have a sense of disability. Women or men, who have it, cannot function. It is a silent disease. Nobody knows if a person around him has BDD. It is a self-destructing disease. According to her, Michael Jackson had it.

Almaeena said that almost 10 per cent of Saudi women suffer from BDD because of the social stress.

In Italy it is four per cent, in Turkey five per cent, in the United States two per cent.

She said that unfortunately some people have a distorted interpretation of religion in regard to women’s sports, and added that women in Islam have practiced such sports as horse riding — sports that were available at that time.

Asked about the dress complying with the Shariah she said it is ok, “except feeling a bit more heat.”

JUS has won many trophies in Jeddah. “The year 2007 was a great year for us — we were winners of three championships — first place winners in the Women’s Free Basketball, first placed winners of the women’s health awareness of Gold’s Gym, and first placed in the Princess Sawzyia Tournament,” Almaeena said

This year, the team has been first placed winners in the Cedar International School Tournament.

The team had two international experiences playing against the American University of Sharjah (AUS) in May 2007, and Aramex, the fifth largest courier company in the world, which is a Jordanian company, based in Amman. In April this year. The team played against Al Riyadiah Aramex, and Shabab Al Urdoon, an independent team that includes national players.

Almaeena said JUS has just had collaboration with the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) and the NBA (National Basketball Association) of America, and the Jordanian basketball community to get experience and build bridges of understanding.

Two coaches came from WNBA in July 2008 in collaboration with the US Consulate and the Friends of Jeddah Parks. They will hopefully come again in September and it is planned to get Karim Abdul Jabbar, and Hakeem Olajuwon.

The coach who came — Lynette Woodard — was the only female who made it to the Harlem Globetrotters. Also, Ruthy Bolton, who was a national player. She played in the world championships.

Princess Adela, daughter of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, last month called for the introduction of physical education and athletic programs for girls at the Kingdom’s public schools as quickly as possible. “It’s high time to look into the matter of introducing sports at girls schools seriously, following the teachings of Islam,” the Princess Adela said while opening a health programme in the Faisaleyyah district of Riyadh.


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