On June 25, 2012, the New York Times stated, “The London Games could be historic as every participating nation is expected to field at least one female athlete, including the three Muslim countries — Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei — that have previously sent only male competitors.” Women's rights in Saudi Arabia have long been severely restricted due to Islamic law, Saudi law, and cultural traditions. Entering into 2012, Saudi Arabia was the of three nations in which had not sent a female athlete to the Olympic Games. After this announcement, many experts still believed Saudi Arabia would be unable to send any female athletes to London. However, on July 12, 2012 The Wall Street Journal reported that Sarah Attar and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani would be representing Saudi Arabia in less then a month as their country’s first competing women. This breakthrough for these two women came after months of negotiations, as the International Olympic Committee made this advancement a priority for the 2012 Olympic Games. The international influence that Saudi Arabia has on surrounding nations made this announcement an extremely substantial development in the Muslim world. For the past 14 centuries the Muslim religion has based their treatment on women on what the Quran expresses. Surah 4:34 clearly shows the common Muslim view on women:
Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because men spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those among you who fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them.
The treatment of women varies largely in every Muslim nation. For example, women in Malaysia and Turkey do everything most other women throughout the world do. Still, women from nations such as Iran, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia face limitations throughout their daily lives. Specifically in Saudi Arabia, all females must have a male guardian at all times. They are not allowed to interact with men they are not related to, and most public places have separate entrances for men and women. Cable News Network reported, “Saudi Arabia is the only country in the world that prevents girls from taking part in sports in government schools. Physical education is allowed only in private schools. Women are not allowed to play in official sports clubs or even watch matches in stadiums.” With that in mind, the inclusion of women from Saudi Arabia into the Olympics is monumental for females around the world.
For every Muslim nation, women’s rights have always been a controversial topic that has sparked dismay for societies everywhere. When looking at Saudi Arabia’s Olympic progress, it is important to note what it has done for the international community. Its impact has specifically been felt by international organizations such as the International Olympic Committee and the United Nations. Both administrations have long pushed for equality on the global stage, and this progress shows cooperation between states and international organizations. Article 1 of the United Nations Charter states the UN’s primary goal, “To achieve international co-operation … in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.” It is without a doubt that women’s rights have moved forward over the past century because of universal influence. However, many still believe Muslim women (specifically in Saudi Arabia) are still a long way from receiving the treatment they deserve, and thus, has persuaded me to ask the following: How has the inclusion of Muslim women into the Olympics influenced the the role of women in society within Muslim nations?
In order to predict the future of women’s rights in Muslim countries, it is crucial to look at what non-partisan…