We called the obvious. The media and IOC tried to present it as something other than a rule change specifically for Muslims, but now that the Olympics are over, the cat comes out of the bag. Buried in an article extolling the virtues of: Muslim woman 1st to ref Olympic beach volleyball – San Antonio Express-News.
Amina El Sergany does not need a referee’s platform to be noticed on a beach volleyball court.
The first Muslim woman to officiate the sport at the Olympics, El Sergany worked the London Games wearing a hijab that, when covered by the standard referee’s uniform, showed only her face. From her elevated position beside the net, she stood in stark contrast to the beach party wardrobe worn by the Horse Guards Parade Dance team and the athletes themselves.
“It doesn’t matter for me. It is normal for me,” the Egyptian said this week in an interview between assignments. “I think first they (the players) were afraid of me, but after that they got used to me and deal with me in a good way. Nobody talks to me about that. They respected me like every other referee.”
It’s been said that the ideal referee is the one that’s unnoticed. But El Sergany said she hoped her visibility would encourage women from all cultures to take up the sport.
“The most important thing is not to win or lose but the participation in these games, to be involved in world actions, not to be isolated,” she said. “I’m proud. It will help lots of women, not only Muslim women.”
In an Olympics with unprecedented participation by women, including the first-ever female athletes from Saudi Arabia, beach volleyball has been fighting the perception that its athletes are more about sex appeal than sport. Patiently tolerating the questions about their bikinis — athletes insist it is the logical choice for a sport born on the beach — players say they are willing to accept the leering because it gives them a chance to win new fans for their game.
The skimpy uniforms are no doubt one reason why beach volleyball is the rare sport where the women’s competition is at the forefront, with TV ratings better for the women than the men. And when the Daily Mail newspaper ran a photo spread about the event on its Web site, it included 16 pictures: 15 of them were of bathing suit-clad women, including three of the dance team, with one picture of the British men’s team, way at the bottom.
But even as women approached — or surpassed — equality in the competition, FIVB President Jizhong Wei knew there was still work to be done. In January, he was asked by the United Nations sports adviser to make the sport more welcoming to Muslim women who, for cultural reasons, would not compete in the traditional bikini. The result: a new rule that allows women to wear shorts and T-shirts.
Who is the UN sports adviser? Was he pressured by the Islamic bloc (the OIC)?
“After the changes, the reforms, women all over the world will be part of this,” El Sergany said. “We do not have any women players back in Egypt. But after the regulations, I will try.”
The reality is that sharia is a means for Muslim men to control Muslim women. Submission of this sort doesn’t help these women, it helps reinforce the brutality of sharia law that treats women as less then men.
In London and at other FIVB events, male and female referees are assigned to matches by the officiating supervisor without regard to gender.
“In other sports, women only officiate women’s games. I want it different,” he said. “Women referees can officiate men’s sports. That makes it really equal.”
Gender segregation per sharia is still years away.
Update: It was a banner year for Islam at the Olympics. A reader left this comment on a previous post, Serb-bashing at the 2012 Olympics