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Sunday, 8 April, 2001, 17:01 GMT 18:01 UK
Whistle blown on women footballers
Russia versus Japan, women's 1999 world cup
An act of disobedience to God?
By the BBC's Caroline Hawley

A row has erupted in Kuwait over a women's football tournament due to take place on Monday, organised by Kuwait University and a number of women's unions.

The head of the Muslim Brotherhood, Abdullah al-Mutawa, has called for it to be cancelled saying it was a disobedience to God for women to take part in such activities.

But leading women's activist, Rola al-Dashdi, told the BBC the tournament should go ahead and that society must not bow to the Islamists.

Muslim wearing veil
Muslim women expected to cover their bodies
Kuwaiti women already play tennis, volleyball and basketball, but football it seems has been a step too far for the Islamists.

The leader of Kuwait's Muslim Brotherhood said the tournament could subject the whole of society to the wrath of God.

A well known conservative MP, Walid al-Tabtabai, also criticised the competition.

He said it was not acceptable for the tournament to be held in open because it would allow men to watch women's bodies and that that was clearly forbidden by Islam.

'Abuse of dignity'

Holly McPeak, US volleyball player
Olympic events such as beach volleyball caused uproar
Kuwaitis, he added, rejected the use of sport to "abuse the chastity and dignity of women and imitate western society."

It was an echo of criticism he made of the Sydney Olympics last September when he called on Kuwaiti television to stop showing women's beach volleyball, diving and synchronised swimming because they were indecent.

So far Kuwait University has not bowed to the Islamist pressure over the football tournament, although one official said it may still call off the competition if the criticism mounts.

The row has dismayed women activists, some of whom feel that their rights are being used as a political football.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Middle East
Kuwaiti court rejects vote for women
02 Apr 01 | Middle East
Fatwa against Kuwaiti singer
15 Jan 01 | Middle East
Kuwait's crossroads
19 Feb 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Kuwait
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