Is barring of women gymnast team for SUKMA 2024 by Terengganu PAS gov’t ‘outmoded’, extreme?

IN A move that is unsurprising yet frustrating and alarming, PAS-led Terengganu has announced that it will not be sending a women’s gymnast team for next year’s SUKMA games in Sarawak.

Reason? Non-Syariah-compliant attire.

As reported in Harakah Daily, the justification by Terengganu Youth, Sports and NGO chairman Hishamuddin Abdul Karim is that the sport requires athletes to wear tight clothes that reveal the shape of the body.

“For now, we will not continue (with gymnastics). We will not compromise on this matter and this stance should be respected,” he said.

Recall that in March 2020, the Terengganu state government launched an Entertainment, Cultural Performances, Tourism and Sports guideline. Among the guidelines set were that Muslim athletes should wear outfits that are courteous, Syariah-compliant and suitable for the sport.

Non-Muslim athletes were recommended to dress courteously in clothes that are not too tight, short or skimpy.

Hishamuddin said the state is using a polite approach as it acknowledges that it is difficult to fully enforce Syariah-compliant outfits among athletes due to challenges with international standards.

What does that actually mean—the “polite approach”? They have just barred women from representing the state in the event.

Other PAS-rule states to follow suit?

National gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi dresses moderately when not performing

What next? Swimming, diving and other pool-related sports as the swimsuits are non-Syariah-compliant? If that is indeed the yardstick, most sportswear is not Syariah-compliant, as a pair of shorts is deemed immodest, as a Kelantanese shopkeeper found out to her dismay. And she was not even in the public or sporting domain but in the confines of her own business premises!

In light of this announcement, does this mean that future SUKMA (or other sports tournaments) held in PAS-controlled states will not feature certain sports for the above reasons?

What about talented female athletes in those states, non-Muslim or otherwise? What are their options? Move to another state so they can train and compete without religious decrees curtailing their sporting progress?

This is the core of many non-Muslims’ fear and apprehension of PAS which seeks to arbitrarily impose religious mandates that greatly curtail freedom of choice.

Moderate, progressive Malaysians need to speak up, not just for women’s right to self-determination but also to rally against this growing tide of conservatism that threatens the very fabric of a multi-cultural society.

If this is allowed to carry on, Malaysia could soon be sending male-only contingents to international sporting meets. – Oct 5, 2023

Subscribe and get top news delivered to your Inbox everyday for FREE