Why People Are Freaking Out Over This Gymnast’s Uniform

Photo: MOHD FYROL/Getty Images.
This past week, Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi won six medals for her performance at the Southeast Asia Games, two of which were gold. And, for anyone who’s been glued to the TV during the Summer Olympics, she looked every bit the part of the smiling, strong tumbling star: a shiny leotard, bits of sheer paneling, a big scrunchie to keep her hair tamed, and glitter — lots of it. But it's this typical gymnastics uniform that has sparked controversy for the 21-year-old because, according to Muslim leaders, she shouldn't have worn it.

As The Telegraph reports, the Muslim athlete's attire came to the attention of Malaysian Islamic cleric Harussani Zakaria because it failed to cover her aurat — a term that refers to the parts of a woman's body intended to be private, which includes the thighs and genitalia. "Gymnastics is not for Muslim women,” Zakaria said. “If Muslim women want to participate in gymnastics, they have to find outfits which cover the aurat, and this, in turn, might not be suitable for the sport.”

Several other Muslim Olympians have had to adjust their athletic outfits to accommodate their faith, such as Tahmina Kohistani and Noor Hussain Al-Malki, both runners. However, according to U.S. guidelines, leotards are regulation attire for gymnastics, and it’s possible the same rules apply when competing on an international level. Furthermore, Hadi is not the first Muslim gymnast who has chosen to compete wearing the ensemble necessary for the sport, which provides the ability to move freely and safely without any overwhelming fabrics. Specifically, Goksu Uctas, a Turkish competitor in the 2012 Olympics, also competed in a standard leotard.

The Telegraph reports that in addition to supporters on Twitter and Instagram, Khairy Jamaluddin, the Malaysian minister for youth and sports, came to the award-winning athlete’s defense. “In gymnastics, Farah wowed the judges and brought home gold. In her deeds, only the Almighty judges her. Not you. Leave our athletes alone,” he said on Twitter. More than 4,000 retweeters agree. (The Telegraph)
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