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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
Olympics: Show of girl power?
Women's Heptathlon
The Women's Heptathlon 100m Hurdles at the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece
In Athens, the number of women taking part in the Olympics is rising and the percentage of Muslim women is a record.

Rubab Raza became the first woman to swim for Pakistan at an Olympic Games.

Earlier this week, Friba Razayee became the first woman in history to compete for Afghanistan at the Olympics when she stepped onto the judo mat.

Women represent more than forty per cent of the total number of athletes in Athens 2004.The target of the International Olympic Committee is fifty per cent.

There were no women at the first modern Olympics in 1896. Swimming was included in 1912 and they had to wait until 1984 to have their own marathon.

Why has the participation of Muslim women in the Olympics increased? Is the future of women's sports secure? Have women overcome the obstacles in the sport's world? Send us your views

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received.

Congratulations to Rubab Raza for becoming the first Pakistani woman to compete in swimming. Thanks for making out nation proud. Best wishes to you and all the other Pakistani Olympians.
Harris Sayed, USA/Pakistan

The point is we only use Islam for women and not for men
Rizwan, NY, USA

In order to comment on this question one will have to study Islam. Islam is not against women taking part in sports; Islam teaches proper dress code for men and women. If the sport falls into prohibited dress code then it is not allowed and if it is not then it should be allowed. I would also like to admit that all Muslims countries do discriminate against women because if we block women from taking part in a sport based on Islamic teachings then there are many sports that men should also be blocked because they are against the Islamic dress code for men. For example, swimming, weightlifting etc. The point is we only use Islam for women and not for men.
Rizwan, NY, USA

If you check and balance between sports and family, you'll see Muslim women pick family which make them happy. Therefore, they invest more time with family and less for sports but the world has become older - Muslim women are more concern to balance the family and sports nowadays.
Syed Jamal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Muslim women in a lot of Muslim countries are being deprived of a lot of basic human rights such as education and equal wages. Lack of Islam education and lack of general education are the cause or it. The dress code does not allow Muslim women to participate in Olympics. It is about time Olympics regulators make the necessary adjustments to allow Muslim women to participate in these events with dignity and pride.
Suhail Mustafa, Cleveland, OH

The reason for the increased participation of Muslim women in the Olympics, I think, is because they are taking more interest in sports and recognizing the importance of sports for personal well-being. The Muslim women who like to participate in competitive sports like soccer and swimming are a long way off from realizing their dreams, but they're getting there step-by-step. European and American women have done a marvellous job overcoming the obstacles in the sports world. I'm also proud of the accomplishments of Asian women.
Rita Chawla, New York, USA

If we let (Muslim) women make their own decisions then life will be much easier. Religion cannot and should not be imposed on any one. Participation in sports is individuals' decision which should be supported both by families and societies. Women (including Muslim women) have brains and ability to make sound decisions for themselves. When will Muslim men and societies learn to be tolerant and progressive?
Nadir N Budhwani, Pakistan

I don't think that it is a matter of religion; rather it is a matter of traditions and culture. In a number of countries, women sports are not more than just an exotic rhetoric. Sports are certainly good for everyone but I am amazed why some people believe that women participation in sports is a symbol of liberalisation. It is perhaps a symbol of globalisation!
Syed Naqvi, France

I think it is extremely sad that people are using athletics (Olympics) as a measure of women's equality and empowerment. Especially when we still see scantily clad girls and women on the Television, in magazines, in the workplace, and schools. Does a Muslim woman become more liberated or equal if she participates in the Olympics? I think not! It is only what the West would like us to believe; to me it's a loss of their integrity, their identity, their religion, to try to be what the Western women would like them to be. Just like them!
Shawn Ly, Edmonton, Canada

All Muslim women who balanced their sport spirit with the love for their culture and religion presented themselves at Athens with dignity and respect. Congratulations to all of you and thank you.
Farooq, FL, USA

I am confident we will see better percentage of women in Beijing Olympics
Mohit Bhatnagar, Davis, USA

One reason for lack of participation of women in sports in Muslim countries is lack of motivation and encouragement both from their own family and government. However, with changing times and dynamic leadership of new head of states of some of the Muslim countries (like Gen Musharraf of Pakistan, who would like his country to be a modern and tolerant Islamic nation), women are slowly but surely coming up. I am confident we will see better percentage of women in Beijing Olympics.
Mohit Bhatnagar, Davis, CA, USA

I think it's a shame that Muslim countries are letting western culture influence them. Lately the western media is busy in creating an illusion around the world that westernisation means moving towards liberation. Muslims need to rethink their policies.
Mohsin Khan, UK

Muslim women taking part in Olympics is one of the most beautiful things that happened this year.
Agha Ata, Houston, Texas.

Yes I want to see women succeed in sporting events but cant' we just enjoy the games without all this man power girl power nonsense? This is exactly the kind of thing that causes one gender to go against another. Let's just enjoy the competition please.
Tanya, Brooklyn, USA

There are some very talented female athletes all over the world. They are having an extremely good showing at this Olympics. It shows how far women's sports have evolved in a relatively short period of time. Whether men's or women's sports, I am enjoying the coverage of events. I especially enjoy the true admiration these athletes have for their counterparts from other nations. I still think that Olympic Games mean so much more than just participation in sports. It brings the world together in peace for two weeks, and everyone goes home a winner. What other event does that?
GG, Vancouver, WA, USA

In response to some earlier comments: Yes there are greater problems in the world. But when it comes to problems we are fighting on many fronts. Don't ignore the progress that has been made here. Women are beginning to reach equality with men. This is a great thing.
David Jones, London, England

Why would this be such a big deal? Is the western world obsessed at looking down on rest of the world and projecting them as lesser beings? I was watching commentaries of the inauguration ceremony, and the comments made about the rest of the world were lacking in sensitivity and despicable. It just presented the picture of a western broadcasting company, which was highly ignorant, and was highly self serving. BBC, please don't join the herd!
Paul Ignatius, Jackson, NJ, USA

First of all, congratulations to Rubab and Friba and thank you for representing your countries in the world's sports arena. Your participation is historical and will inspire young, athletic women all over the world to reach and surpass your glory. The fact that only a couple of years ago Friba Razayee would have been barred from participating in society, let alone international sports, makes her achievement even greater..
Scott, Minneapolis, USA

I think it is really important that the number of Muslim women taking part in sport and the Olympics has increased and continues to increase. Over the years, sport has been used positively to change attitudes to race and national prejudices. Sportsmen have inspired others to overcome their situations and achieve something amazing. It is encouraging to see women who have overcome so many obstacles competing with the world's best. It is also pretty significant that some of the men who have contributed to this discussion so far see the issue as frivolous and trivial. We need our sporting heroines. They've worked just as hard, and in Islamic countries, far harder than their male counterparts. The men who seek to trivialise this issue cannot see women's sport as being as important as men's. Gentlemen, you are part of the problem.
Sportswoman, UK

It strikes me that, in 2004, and despite everyone's ability to access unbiased information resources, the presence of Muslim women in the international scene is still regarded as a 'major progress' worth analysing
Tarek Cheniti, Geneva, Switzerland
It strikes me that, in 2004, and despite everyone's ability to access unbiased information resources, the presence of Muslim women in the international scene is still regarded as a 'major progress' worth analysing. I do not think that the female presence in non-Muslim delegations was really overwhelming either. In fact, the status of women is virtually the same in all countries and, regardless of their religions or national origin, they are still underrepresented in politics, economy, academia, and- let's face it, in sports.

The future looks promising though: much is happening in several corners around the globe, and women are gradually gaining equality with men. This is a process, meaning that it will definitely take time and necessitate steady efforts. But the Olympics are a valuable step forward.
Tarek Cheniti, Geneva, Switzerland

It is great to see women are so close to the greats of the men's achievements, it won't be long before unisex events.
Sean, Essex

Girl power is good. Better still are the mixed sex teams exploiting each other's individual strengths in order to win. (e.g. badminton's Robertson/Emms yesterday). That hopefully will be the aim of future generations of women whether it be in sport, work or marriage. And regardless of religion.
Joy Natan, Brussels, Belgium

I think there is still some way to go for women in sport
Lizzie Turner, Westcliff-on-Sea
I think there is still some way to go for women in sport, but is great to see such a high percentage in the Olympics. There needs to be more promotion for women in sport, and not just for Olympic events but for the minority sports too.
Lizzie Turner, Westcliff-on-Sea

The future of women's sports is sadly uncertain - athletics is a different story, but until professional women's teams and leagues in the traditionally popular 'ball' sports attract the attention (both of commercial sponsorship and of supporters) that they deserve, they will be marginalized. Women's sport needs to re-brand if its going to get the money it needs to move forward.
Richard Blakeley, Rotherham, England

With all of the conflicts and political corruption going on throughout the world, the participation of women in the Olympics is a moot issue. Only a liberal would worry about things of this nature along with gay rights and equal opportunity during times such as this.
Tony, USA

It's indeed a demonstration that what really matters is not the sex gender, but what we as human beings can achieve with our efforts, muscles, souls and hearts. Congratulations to all the women taking part in the Olympic games. They're likely to appear in higher numbers next time, and they'll certainly show themselves off.
Raimundo L. Santos, Belo Horizonte, Brazil

Let a Muslim woman acquire the same power and respect that Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Sonia Gandhi acquired; then we shall know that Islamic women have been truly liberated.
Dinesh Dey, Fairfield, Iowa, USA

I don't know whether to laugh or cry over this. First of all, in many of the events for women's sports, is seems that the women and men are not wearing clothes that would be permitted in a closed business environment, let alone on live television. Second, Islam liberates women by clothing them. It is a very amazing world that liberates women by pulling away their clothing, even if under the cover of the Olympics. Thirdly, the majority of women in Pakistan and in other parts of the Muslim world appreciate their "hawwa" or modesty. I could guarantee you that Rubab Raza and Razayee are either from a Western background or live in a Western area of their countries. Thirdly, as a young Muslim in the west (not radical) it is clear to me that in other religions, modesty is emphasized. I mean, when was the last time you saw a Christian nun with a tee shirt. Would giving her a tee shirt and asking her to do the hurls liberate her?
Grade 8 student Mustafa Farooq, Canada, Pakistan

Congratulations to Rubab for being first ever Pakistani woman to compete in an Olympics swimming competition, thanks for making our nation proud. Well wishes to you.
Yasir Waqar, Houston, TX , U.S.A

There are some people who may frown on Rubab Raza, because they will say that we Pakistanis measure "progress" by losing our identity and becoming how Western countries want us to become. I say that this is untrue. This is because Islam has unfortunately become a religion on bigotry and hate, not because of its own teachings, but because of low literacy levels in our country. Rubab Raza is a symbol of hope because it means that we are capable of being tolerant, well-rounded Muslims, and not because we are adapting to so-called "Western" culture. She's made us very proud!!
Qasim, Karachi, Pakistan

Let us not forget that the spirit of female participation in sport was successfully ignited by the Prophet Muhammad who on one occasion invited his wife, Aisha, to a foot race and then finished a distant second to her! Is this not evidence enough that Muslim women need to progress to new frontiers in the world of sports leaving behind culture and tradition and looking towards an Islamic liberation.
Amanullah De Sondy, Glasgow, Scotland

It is great to see more women from Muslim countries participating in sports though it is disheartening at the same time to see the growing opposition to women taking part in these sports by a seemingly less tolerant and moderate public in these nations.
Hyder, Karachi, Pakistan

Recently I read in a report that female MPs (and not men) of a religious party of Pakistan suggested to ban sports in women's colleges. Things are just so volatile these days that it is still premature to predict anything. However women like Rubab and Fariba should be encouraged and supported. These are small steps that will go a long way.
Qaiser Bakhtiari, Karachi, Pakistan

To the Muslim women who made it to the Olympics I have only one thing to say. Bravo!
Khalid M. Husain, Fort Kent, Maine

Don't forget that Turkish women are also Muslims - and one is a weightlifting gold medallist. Another (absent from Athens) is a champion middle distance runner.
Beverly Barbey, Beauvais, France

I think this development shows that true progress towards equality and freedom for Muslim women will not come from Western military intervention, but from the women themselves.
Matthew, San Francisco, USA

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