I asked Annie Sugier if a ban on the hijab at the Games would result in accusations that some Muslim women would be effectively excluded from attending. "In supporting such demands [for female participants to be allowed to wear the veil] one does not support Islamic women, rather it allows a country to impose its views on how women should behave," she says.
Liberals and Islamists both claim that female athletes can choose whether or not to wear the headscarf, and that they would not be able to participate in sport if the IOC banned such clothing. But this is a flawed argument. Feminists who support the "right" of women to wear the headscarf rather than calling for a ban should consider whether civil rights activists in the Deep South would have argued for separate buses for black people because otherwise they would not be able to travel to work.
Muslim women living under Sharia have no choice about whether or not to cover up in public. The veil signifies the fact that women have limited and conditional access to public space, and have to follow rules laid down by men to be allowed to participate in the world outside the home.
"This is an unacceptable double standard. The IOC puts in danger any Muslim female athlete who complies with the Charter, who does not dare to wear the Islamic veil, because she will be seen as rebelling," said Annie Sugier.
Since the 1990s, the LDIF has applied pressure on the IOC to ensure that the Charter is implemented to protect the right of female athletes to compete on an equal footing with men, free from religious interference. The IOC, which has 15 women members on its 135-strong committee, is not listening. The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games says the Mayor's office had "no say in the matter". It is unusual for Boris Johnson not to take a view, especially where women are concerned.
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