Two Olympian women athletes compete: A Muslim Egyptian athlete and the German athlete
Doaa El Ghobashy
is an 18-year-old Egyptian, who wears a hijab and leggings while her opponent, a German beach volleyball player is perfectly comfortable in her bikini on the beach. They could not look more different or come from more disparate cultures. What they share is their love of competitive sports and what differentiates them is their faith, dress codes, family decorum and their individual cultural demeanor in their own particular societies.
Cohen insight-fully points out that there is frequently a prickly sensitivity when women’s issues, roles, sexuality, education, dress and ambitions are discussed. These issues in particular for Muslim women are charged, because we are not always as free as we would like to be in many Muslim cultures. In India, for example where I come from, Muslim women like myself have been exposed to the western world and even had the opportunity to be educated in the United States, but I realize that this is not the prerogative of every young Muslim woman who is eager to experience the world at large.
Despite the myriad differences between the two Olympian women athletes from diverse backgrounds, they share a passion for sports. Chadiedja Bujis,
a child of divorced parents (Egyptian mother and a Dutch father, Chadiedja grew up in the Netherlands, and is now a graduate student in Cairo). Chadiedja has a mind of her own, and chose independently to wear the veil – much to her mother’s astonishment. Her mother who was clearly devoted to her daughter’s freedom was both stunned and disappointed by her daughter’s decision to veil. Chadiedja went through some serious soul searching and decided to pray, to stop drinking and to begin fasting. She explains that she even went so far as to wear the head scarf, “as a sign of giving up some of my control,”
which she believed she needed to do for herself.
After the attacks in France, Chadiedja’s mother requested her to “Please take off your veil,”
and she responded by saying: “It is my choice to wear it. I will die with it on. That is my right. Nobody will take it away from me.”
Bravo for Doaa El Ghobashy!
is not only an Olympic athlete but she is clearly defining who she is more fully as she also embraces her Islamic faith. She draws the lines she needs for herself to be a world class athlete who competes in the Olympic games as she struggled to find her mental, athletic and religious equilibrium. For an older Muslim woman like myself, it just thrills me to see young Muslim women being given extraordinary opportunities to participate in the Olympics which just a few years ago would have seemed out of reach. It is thrilling to see young women with power, prowess and talent participate in the Olympics and even WIN in the sports where they compete.