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Athlete backed over dress row

Gulf Daily News
August 4, 2005

By TARIQ KHONJI

TOP Bahrain runner Maryam Yusuf Jamal has been defended by the Bahrain Athletics Association (BAA) after she came under fire from an MP, who said her sportswear was indecent.

MP Hamad Al Muhannadi said in the local Press that it was unacceptable for Ms Jamal to represent Bahrain in shorts and a sports vest, which left her stomach and arms uncovered, because it would give the country a bad reputation.

But BAA vice-president Mohammed Jamal said the association was already planning to give new sportswear to Ms Jamal, which covered her stomach and her legs down to the knee.

He added that Ms Jamal, who is originally Ethiopian, wasn't a Muslim anyway.

"She is learning about Islam and may convert, but at the moment she is a Christian," he said.

Mr Jamal said some types of races required athletes to wear certain types of clothing to retain their competitive edge.

He added that he would not allow MPs to bully the association.

"We already planned the new clothes from before," he said. "But if we thought for a moment that they would hurt her performance, we would not introduce them."

Mr Al Muhannadi was outraged when he saw Ms Jamal's picture in newspapers after she won the 3,000 metres race at the Oslo Golden League on Monday.

She won gold after clocking in at eight minutes and 29.87 seconds.

He told the GDN that it didn't matter to him that Ms Jamal wasn't a Muslim - saying Bahrain's laws are based on Sharia teachings according to the constitution.

"It will present a bad reputation for the country because it will make people think these kinds of clothes are normal here," said Mr Al Muhannadi.

"I know that many Bahraini girls wear shorts, but that doesn't make it right."

When questioned about whether he thought all athletes should wear headscarves according to Islamic law, he said this was not what he was suggesting.

However, he did say that women should not take part in sports that require them to dress or behave in an "un-Islamic" way.

Ms Jamal left Oslo yesterday to take part in the 1,500-metre race at the World Athletics Championship, which begins in Helsinki tomorrow.

 

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