Saudi Crackdown Sends Female Gym Rats to Sidelines

Religious leaders say sports are unfeminine
By Ambreen Ali,  Newser User
Posted May 14, 2009 3:51 PM CDT

(Newser) – Though obesity and diabetes are on the rise in Saudi Arabia, officials there are cracking down on women-only sports clubs because they lack licenses—which no government body will actually issue. Leaders say their opposition is based on Islam, but, Caryle Murphy writes for GlobalPost, it stems as much from views about women long extinct in other societies. “Depriving women of this is yet another way of marginalizing them,” says one activist.

Scholars cite Victorian notions that sports may lead women to lose their characteristic shyness, become masculine, or even lust for one another. It’s a “slippery slope,” says one, that follows “in the footsteps of Western countries.” A sheikh adds, “Women need to have their dignity protected.” Still, women continue to organize privately, or, in relatively liberal Jiddah, somewhat openly.