Women's sports raise ire in Kuwait

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Islamists in Kuwait have urged the government to cancel a soccer match for women, saying the competition would bring "the wrath of God" down on the conservative Muslim society.

The tournament, due to kick off at Kuwait University today, is supposed to bring together 12 all-female student teams drawn from the university, institutes, and Arab and foreign schools.

Abdullah al-Mutawa, head of the emirate's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood movement, told the Al-Anba daily that the participation of women in such activities was "forbidden and a disobedience to God, and can subject the whole society to the Almighty's wrath."

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Leading Islamic member of Parliament Waleed al-Tabtabai was slightly more conciliatory, saying the tournament could be held, but "only indoors, to ensure that men will not be watching."

"It is not acceptable to hold open tournaments for girls as happens in other countries. This will allow men to watch women's bodies, clearly forbidden by Islam," Mr. Tabtabai said in a statement.

He urged Education Minister Musaed al-Harun to intervene and ensure that the "games were held within the limits of religion."

"The people of Kuwait reject the use of sport to abuse the chastity and dignity of women, and to imitate Western society where religion has no place," he said.

In September, Tabtabai called on the state-run television to stop showing women's beach volleyball, diving, and synchronized swimming competitions from the Sydney Olympics, branding them "too sexy and indecent."

He has been outspoken in his criticism of all forms of entertainment that involve mixing of the sexes, including "nontraditional and immoral" musical concerts at Kuwait's annual shopping festival.

Religiously conservative Kuwait is the only Gulf country to have an elected parliament, but women are not allowed to vote.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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