Saudi Arabia’s female athletes cause heated debate

Conservative clerics blast Saudi Arabia's Olympic female athletes as 'shameless'

At the Olympics ceremony it was announced that finally every nation had a female athlete participating in the Games.

Saudi Arabia was one of three countries including Qatar and Brunei never to have sent female athletes to the event.

The country courted controversy when it was almost banned from participating after it was believed they were refusing to send women to the Olympics. It was later revealed that two female athletes would attend.

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Although most people feel the inclusion of judo athlete Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkan and 800m runner Sarah Attar is positive, there has been a heated debate online, with conservative Islamists branding the women ‘shameless’.

Women playing sport is opposed by conservative clerics who believe it to be immodest. Girls are not taught PE at school.

Some clerics took to Twitter using a hashtag that translates as ‘Olympic_whores’ to insult the athletes.

Their participation was described as a ‘great sin’ and one Twitter user even said the women wanted to run ‘so that they intentionally fall down and reveal (their figures).’

Despite the controversy, many prominent clerics have felt it too risky to challenge the government’s decision.

King Abdullah, the country’s ruler, is believed to be a ‘reformer’ and has even fired clerics who criticised his reform plans involving women.

Saudi Arabia’s Olympic Committee and government have not released a comment on the issue.

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