Back in September 2005, I began writing several posts about the controversy surrounding Sania Mirza and her clothing on the tennis court. In the comments to one of those posts, I began discussing whether women tennis players would be hampered if they wore, say, sweat pants on the tennis court, comparing the issue to baseball players who wear both pants and long-sleeved shirts as part of their uniform. My conclusion then was that, no, both men and women playing tennis really wouldn't have their performance negatively affected by wearing more modest clothing.
Enter Ruqaya Al Ghasara, a 24-year-old Bahraini sprinter who took the gold in the Women's 200m and the bronze in the Women's 100m sprints at the Asian Games, currently playing in Doha, Qatar. Ruqaya is different from most sprinters, though, in that she's an observant Muslim and won while having covered her legs, arms and hair.
The debate whether Muslim women can succeed at high-profile track and field competitions without compromising their beliefs on attire may have been buried for good at the Khalifa Stadium yesterday [December 11] when Bahrain’s Ruqaya al-Ghasara sped to a spectacular 200m gold at the Asian Games. “It’s a glory for all Muslim women,” she declared after crossing the finish in 23.19 seconds, adding an extra emotional dimension to her achievement by falling to her knees and kissing the turf.
It marked the first time in the history of the Asian games that a Muslim woman kitted in a full tracksuit and a hijab has won a track gold medal and that too in the draining 200m sprint which calls for a tremendous burst of energy and mental resolve.
"I want to say I'm very thankful for being a Muslim; it's a blessing," said the sports management student. "Wearing conservative clothes has encouraged me. Wearing a veil proves that Muslim women face no obstacles and encourages them to participate in sport."
"Wearing traditional Muslim dress has encouraged me. It's not an obstacle – quite the opposite. Wearing the hijab shows that there are no obstacles. I've set my best times wearing the hijab and even qualified for Osaka in it," she said, referring to the Japanese city which is hosting next year's world championships."
Ruqaya Steals the Thunder
Veil No Bar to Glory for Muslim Women Says Doha Champion
True to Her Faith