A record number of Muslim women are representing their countries in the Olympic Games, making history with several firsts. Many of the women have made it to Athens despite poverty and religious or cultural oppression and are trying to follow their religious customs while remaining competitive.
The International Olympic Committee doesn’t track athletes’ religions, so the exact number of Muslim women at the Games is unknown. But journalists have counted about 50 women, more than in any previous Olympiad, reports the Los Angeles Times. Many of these women say their societies wholeheartedly encourage their participation in sports, in contrast to perceptions in the West, added the Times.
Eighteen-year-old Friba Razayee made history on Wednesday becoming the first woman to compete for Afghanistan at the Olympics. Though her judo match ended in defeat after 45 seconds–she had practiced for barely a year–just being at the Olympics was an accomplishment.
“It is an enormous honor to represent Afghan women in the Olympics for the first time,” Razayee told the Times. “I don’t care if I don’t get any medals. Medals aren’t important. Just attending the Olympics is a gold medal for me.”
Razayee is one of two women on the five-member Afghan Olympic team, along with sprinter Robina Mugimyar. Under the rule of the Taliban, which was ousted after the U.S. invasion in 2001, Mugimyar said she wasn’t even allowed to emerge from her home. Now she’s competing in the 100-meter race at the Olympics.
Egypt, an Islamic but secular country, has 15 women in its 96-member delegation. For the first time an Egyptian woman, Doaa Moussa, has qualified for Olympic rowing. Meanwhile, 13-year-old Pakistani Rubab Raza is the first female swimmer Pakistan has sent to the Olympics. Rubab is one of two women in Pakistan’s 43-member Pakistani delegation, the other is a runner.
Activists and other athletes, however, caution that although women’s participation in the Olympics has grown, challenges remain. Countries such as Saudi Arabia continue to have no women as part of their Olympic delegation.
Annie Sugier, co-founder of the group Atlanta-Sydney-Athens Plus, which lobbies on behalf of female athletes in the Olympics, told the Times that Saudi Arabia was one of four or five such countries this year. The Olympic’s governing body has yet to confront this issue.
At least four gunshots were fired at a clinic affiliated with Planned Parenthood in Lufkin, Texas, late Tuesday or early Wednesday morning. Although no one was hurt in the attack, the clinic suffered some damage and its front door and several windows had bullet holes, according to The Lufkin Daily News.
Similar mischief cases have occurred around town, but Lt. Greg Denman of the Lufkin Police Department told The Lufkin Daily News that this incident may be different.
“Based on the amount of rounds that were fired, it appears the suspect could have been targeting the clinic,” he said.
The clinic, which is affiliated with Planned Parenthood of Houston and Southeast Texas, has been the target of a small group of local anti-choice protestors. Though it doesn’t perform surgical abortions, the clinic does refer patients seeking abortions to other clinics.
The group of local activists has formed a “loose coalition” called Lufkin for Life, according to The Lufkin Daily News, but said they condemn this act of violence.
Lufkin for Life began protesting outside the clinic shortly after another group called the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life, an anti-choice group in Bryan, Texas, met in Lufkin earlier this summer to discuss efforts to shut down a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, according to the paper.
The Lufkin Police Department is continuing its investigation into the shooting.
— Juhie Bhatia.