Saudi Arabia: The 2012 Summer Olympics and Ramadan

I am so very disappointed to be wrong.  Back in March 2012 I actually felt confident that Saudi Arabia would be sending women athletes to compete in the London summer Olympics.  However, in April 2012 the backtracking started.  It has only been more firmly cemented in recent announcements that Saudi Arabia will not approve nor send female athletes to the Summer games in London.  Saudi Arabia will go down in history as the only nation not having female athletes in participation at the 2012 Olympic games in London.   This decision has been handed down just two short weeks after a group of Saudi women climbed Mt. Everest in support of global awareness of breast cancer.  In my mind, the triumph of the Saudi women certainly illustrates that they are more than capable of representing the Kingdom at the Olympics!

However, in spite of the lack of female Saudi Olympians, Olympians who practice the Muslim faith may have an additional challenge to contend with as they compete at the summer games.  This year the summer Olympics coincides with the Holy month of Ramadan where Muslims are expected to fast without food or water from sunrise to sunset.  How may fasting impact on their ability to perform?

Islam does have an exemption that Muslims who travel during Ramadan are not required to fast during that period of traveling but are expected to make up those lost days at a later time.  As a result, some Muslim athletes could withhold from fasting during the Olympic games as they will be away from their homes.

I am of two minds on the issue of fasting.  Part of the reason for the fast is for Muslims to emphasize and experience the feeling of those who are less fortunate and face hunger.  Yet, on the other hand, fasting while expecting to be at peak performance does not mix.

I want to know what you think.  What message do you receive from Saudi’s decision to not have female athletes on their team?  Secondly, should Muslim athletes in London continue their fasting in spite of the extra exertion that will place upon them during competition?

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23 Responses

  1. I never thought that women would be permitted to go, so it’s no big surprise to me. I think that if Saudi women really wanted to make a point, they could qualify and play for another country…bring another country gold medals and glory. Then maybe Saudi would change…

  2. What message do you receive from Saudi’s decision to not have female athletes on their team? Unable or unwilling to face and protect themselves from the arriving storm, women’s revolution.

    Secondly, should Muslim athletes in London continue their fasting in spite of the extra exertion that will place upon them during competition?

    NO. Fasting, like praying is personal and should be left to the individual. If not fasting one day or a week make a person less Muslim then Muslims should take an inventory of their faith.

  3. Has Saudi Arabia ever sent women athletes to the Olympics?

    Also I would not think it would be appropriate for an athlete to fast during the games. Perhaps friends and family could join them in fasting at an alternative date. I did this once with a Muslim friend who traveled a lot.

    Also please tell me that pregnant women do not fast during Ramadan!!

  4. Grand Mufti Rules! King should start wearing black abayas with nikab and hijab until there is emancipation of women in saudi arabia!

  5. Annie:

    No typically pregnant women do not fast.

  6. There are exemptions in Ramadan when it comes to fasting. Pregnant women are not required to fast. If an individual is ill or has a condition which can be harmed from fasting, they should not fast. If an individual needs medication at certain times which require food and/or water, they would be exempt from fasting. However any individual who is able should try and make up any days missed fasting during Ramadan.

  7. @Annie,

    No; Saudi Arabia has never sent female athletes to the Olympics.

    On Tue, May 29, 2012 at 5:06 AM, Carol Fleming wrote:

    > There are exemptions in Ramadan when it comes to fasting. Pregnant women > are not required to fast. If an individual is ill or has a condition which > can be harmed from fasting, they should not fast. If an individual needs > medication at certain times which require food and/or water, they would be > exempt from fasting. However any individual who is able should try and > make up any days missed fasting during Ramadan. > >

  8. Fasting by competitive Saudis at Olympics 2012, should be a personal choice.

    However, this is very interesting philosophical debate on religious observance vs. nationalism..in the form of the doing well on behalf for representing a country and also for individualism, in terms of personal achievement.

    I hope that the athletes will have great support to pray together during this time.

    Disappointing but not surprising that KSA will not allow female Saudi atheletes in 2012 Olympics.

    But honest, if many Saudi women and girls don’t even bicycle (I am a long time cyclist) in their ordinary lives for fun or for just short transportation trips to do shopping ,go to library, then I’m not surprised that they barred by KSA from Olympics.

    We must take the most accessible sports that gives women individual freedom and independence to practice any time : walking (without being constantly chaperoned), jogging, cycling and driving. If a society allows this to all women regardless of socio-economic class, then that society is taking steps level the “playing field” for both genders.

    The bicycle embodies this because in the U.S. in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, feminists did harken to the bicycle as giving women independence, health, etc.

    I’m trying to bring sport, fitness and health right down to a level for all women that is totally accessible. Olympics is for the rarefied, tiny group of people for any society/ culture.

  9. Where there’s a will there’s a way, if there is a determination then the pathways are simple to work out.

    For example, out of the 33 Olympic Sport activities there are 6 achievable targets that could meet modesty criteria such as Archery, Fencing, Shooting, Table Tennis, Badminton with possible Tennis, Sailing and Judo at a push. !!

  10. Another sign that things in Saudi will never improve.

  11. Well, if you hark back to the 1924 Olympics, one of the star British competitors ( Harold Liddel iirc ) refused to compete on a Sunday as he was not prepared to violate the Sabbath. That was a personal decision, and it was respected. I can’t think of any similar subsequent examples – but I’d be surprised if there weren’t.

    Broadly speaking, today, professional athletes are, well, professional athletes; and there’s no Olympic category for professional Muslims/Jews/Christians etc. The serious competitors who want to win, or at least perform to the best of their ability, will take advantage of the option to fast later.

    One of the UK rowers – Mo Sbihi – has stated that he will either postpone his fast, or contribute to the feeding of poor muslims in Morocco. He wants to compete, and as part of a team, knows that he must be in perfect shape and accept team discipline if he wants to be selected.

    The most high-profile UK competitor of Muslim origin, Mo Farah, who is a serious contender for medals in two events, is not going to prejudice his chances either.

    The Saudi exclusion of women is as expected by any realistic observer; they should, in turn, be excluded from the IOC until they fulfil their obligations as signatories to the charter.

  12. Thanks for this info! I had not thought about Ramadan being during the Olympics this year.

  13. I agree with Dan re saudis “be excluded from the IOC until they fulfil their obligations as signatories to the charter”. Olympic Committee excluded south africa because of their racial apartheid. They should do the same to KSA because of its gender apartheid.

    But then south africa didn’t have oil; KSA does:)-

  14. Fasting is personal and should be left to the athletes and their coaches to decide onwhat’s best for them, after all every athlete goes to the olympics to win .

    As for women not going , i”m not terribly surprised, partriarchy is entrenched in saudi society and they fear the losening of strings will make the women change what is the norm… no one likes change and saudi men in power like it even less than normal :-)

    Only the saudi women can change it, if they want to , guess they don’t want to at present and are content with the status quo.. let them be.

  15. sheerazy: “….6 achievable targets that could meet modesty criteria such as Archery, Fencing, Shooting, Table Tennis, Badminton with possible Tennis, Sailing and Judo at a push …”.

    I liked your excellent suggestions, sheerazy! But I am at a loss to understand how saudi women athletes will overcome the hurdle of gender segregation at the olympics. Mentor moi, sil vous plait :)-

  16. Depressing about no women. Of Course Muslim athletes have to fast!! Come on, everyone, these are GAMES, not battles. It not whether we win or lose, etc., but how we play.

  17. Radhaa:

    You know I have days just like that where you read about Saudi women liking their male guardians and like the status quo even if it is detrimental to many of their fellow women. Sometimes I get the opinion of this is the way you want it so live by it otherwise change it just don’t export it to other countries. Then I am stuck thinking about the other women that are hurt by it but it does go deeper as it hurts children and even men if they actually looked at the effect.

  18. Well said bigstick1 … if it is detrimental to many of their fellow women

    You are right, we must think about the consequence of our action and behaviours…….

    Fact, the Saudi style and behaviour are followed by many other Muslim countries, regardless. Unfortunately in some poorer countries interpretation of the style is taken into extremism with frightening affect; i.e. gender mutilation and honour killing. Sadly people involved in the act do not see the action is resulted from extremism. In this sense, everyone is cautioned to look around; study and think about the wider consequences rather than insisting, arguing and justifying etc etc regardless.

  19. @Okie homestay

    The solution of Saudi women competing for another country you proposed is not allowed by the Olympic charter. Remember that the Olympics is a competition between countries and not individual athletes. For that reason, all athletes are required to carry citizenship of the country they represent, and that citizenship has to be obtained by a certain date, I believe (not sure) 10 months before the start of the games.

    Saudi women wishing to represent other countries will have to be citizens of these countries. I suppose that is an option to Saudi heritage women who happen to have other passports. But then you cannot really in good faith call them Saudi women.

    For your repository of useless knowledge, the citizenship requirement is not applied to World championships but it is to the Olympics.

  20. Fasting in Ramadan is a obligatory law by the creator Allah, there is some relief in few special cases, but if you are adult and in good health there can be no excuse not to be fasting, because participating in games is not obligatory. Why you are so interested for participation of Muslim women in the public game?!!. You do not have to be Islamic scholar to declare those muslim country are sending their women in Public showing game in any covered form of women is HARAM, They are doing wrong and they will be punished in here and hereafter.

  21. We are interested because a lot of women want to go to the Olympics, and most of us would like to see equality and rights and happiness for all..

    Here we have it again ”their women”. You do not seem to understand that women are not property, they don’t belong to men and they don’t belong to a state. therefore if any woman wants to compete in the Olympics they should be free to make that decision for themselves, regardless of what you think is haraam or not. You can only decide what you yourself would be doing, and if you want to cover yourself up in black polyester. But you have no right to decide for anybody else.

  22. And you certainly have no right to punish anybody because they do not adhere to your interpretation of one of these crackpot invisible sky daddy religions.

    And as there is no hereafter nobody will get punished for nothing anyway.

  23. Forgive me, but government/institutes in control of religion put so many laws in place under the pretense of God/Allah. Do you really believe God will strike you dead if you did not fast? Before you comment with nasty remarks please know that I’m a Muslim and have many Muslim friends who choose to fast our way. Do not also assume we do not know the Koran or live a life apart from Allah. Saudi, put so much on outward acts of worship that they forget Allah/God watches the heart of man not what he does to impress others. Yes, nothing is wrong with fasting. I encourage it and everyone should do it but it is also not written that it cannot be altered. Also, the lower humble people are the ones making a big deal about dressing or fasting but shall I say, many in the political arena and royal families does not comply with fasting as they should or as it called down upon the people and many woman in the public arena and from royal or political life do not cover themselves as they command the small working class to do. This is “do as I say but NOT as I do”… Sounds like a double standard to me.

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