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Islam, Women, and Sports in Sub-Saharan Africa. Martha Saavedra Center for African Studies, UC Berkeley October 2006. Q: “Islam’s impact on women’s sport?”. ‘Islam’ is not an obstacle to the participation of women in sport.

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islam women and sports in sub saharan africa

Islam, Women, and Sports in Sub-Saharan Africa

Martha Saavedra

Center for African Studies, UC Berkeley

October 2006

q islam s impact on women s sport
Q: “Islam’s impact on women’s sport?”
  • ‘Islam’ is not an obstacle to the participation of women in sport.
  • Islam can shape the sporting experience of people as gendered subjects.
  • Impact varies widely, depending on
    • Interpretation
    • Practice
    • Politicization by individuals, organizations & states
outline
Outline
  • Three issues
    • Clarifying Question
      • Elements involved?
    • Transnational and global nature of contemporary sport
    • Theology and Practice
      • Islam and Sport
      • Abuja 2003

Continued…

outline continued
Outline -continued
  • Examples from
    • Senegal
    • Sudan
    • Nigeria
    • Zanzibar and South Africa
slide6

Clarifying the Question:Intersections?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Emphasis on lived experience, not on theological understandings

Need for spatial and historical grounding anticipating variation across space and time

Generalizations - tentative

slide7

Clarifying the Question:Elements?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Distinguish influence of Islam from other factors –

educational opportunities

general availability of facilities

living standards

leisure time, etc

slide8

Clarifying the Question:Elements?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Distinguish influence of Islam from other factors –

effect of colonialism

different colonial practices & institutions

traditions & customs

varied & mutable

slide9

Clarifying the Question:Elements?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Distinguish influence of Islam from other factors –

Political Economy

Debt burdens

Declining terms of trade

Dependency

Structural Adjustment

Poverty

slide10

Clarifying the Question:Elements?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Not interchangeable with “women,” even if women are main concern

Ask question carefully -

“Does a particular articulation of Islam prevent females from pursuing sport in ways that do not prevent men from pursuing sport?”

slide11

Clarifying the Question:Elements?

Islam

Gender

Sport

Address gender more broadly for increased understanding –

“How does nexus of sport and Islam shapes masculinity?”

can lend insight into how sport shapes femininity.

nature of sport itself
Nature of Sport itself
  • Implicated in fabric of political and social life.
  • Definition:
    • competitive physical activity guided by rules
    • with some reference to an institutional framework
nature of sport in africa
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Most organized sport influenced or structured by Western practice.
nature of sport in africa14
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Most organized sport influenced or structured by Western practice.
  • Hence, carries historical and cultural baggage.
nature of sport in africa15
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Most organized sport influenced or structured by Western practice.
  • Hence, carries historical and cultural baggage.
    • Weberian rationalization (Guttman 1978)
nature of sport in africa16
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Most organized sport influenced or structured by Western practice.
  • Hence, carries historical and cultural baggage.
    • Weberian rationalization (Guttman 1978)
    • Particular Western values –
      • Democratic equality
      • Corporate capitalist exploitation
nature of sport in africa17
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • More Western baggage
    • Gendered systems of sport
      • Hegemonic heterosexual hyper-masculinity
nature of sport in africa18
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • More Western baggage
    • Gendered systems of sport
      • Hegemonic heterosexual hyper-masculinity
      • Posited against any homosexual visibility
nature of sport in africa19
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • More Western baggage
    • Gendered systems of sport
      • Hegemonic heterosexual hyper-masculinity
      • Posited against any homosexual visibility
      • Rules out muscular femininity
        • For binary and exclusive definition of sexuality
nature of sport in africa20
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • More Western baggage
    • Gendered systems of sport
      • Hegemonic heterosexual hyper-masculinity
      • Posited against any homosexual visibility
      • Rules out muscular femininity
        • In a binary and exclusive definition of sexuality
    • Women’s pursuit of sport
      • Always problematic
      • Challenge to hegemonic norms of sexuality
nature of sport in africa21
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Sport, gender & Islam in Africa
    • Marked by Western trajectories
    • As much as by local practices of Islam
      • Which also have transnational influences
nature of sport in africa22
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Interaction of local – global
    • Variable outcomes in African settings
    • Western outcomes not a teleological paradigm that is desirable or inevitable
nature of sport in africa23
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Interaction of local – global
    • Variable outcomes in African settings
    • Western outcomes not a teleological paradigm that is desirable or inevitable
  • Yes, Western hegemony is formidible
    • But – local is also powerful
    • Can also influence global…
nature of sport in africa24
Nature of Sport in Africa
  • Multiple Trajectories!
islam and sport
Sport

Body is Central

Physical manipulation

Physicality

Mapped with forces

Political

Economic

Social

Cultural

Psychological

Spiritual

Islam and Sport
islam and sport26
Sport

Body is Central

Physical manipulation

Physicality

Mapped with forces

Magnifies beliefs about physical possibilities

Including, sexual difference

Islam and Sport
islam and sport27
Sport

Body is Central

Physical manipulation

Physicality

Mapped with forces

Magnifies beliefs about physical possibilities

Including, sexual difference

Islam and Sport
  • Islam
    • Concern for body
      • Piety & Modesty
      • Health & Hygiene
      • Defensive preparation
      • Intellectual and moral education
islam and sport28
Sport

Body is Central

Physical manipulation

Physicality

Mapped with forces

Magnifies beliefs about physical possibilities

Including, sexual difference

Islam and Sport
  • Islam
    • Concern for body
      • Piety & Modesty
      • Health & Hygiene
      • Defensive preparation
      • Intellectual and moral education
    • For some
      • Regulation of clothing for women AND men while engaged in physical activity
islam and sport30
Islam and Sport
  • Goal of sport critical
islam and sport31
Islam and Sport
  • Goal of sport critical
    • e.g. Seeking fame and glory takes away from worshiping Allah
islam and sport32
Islam and Sport
  • Goal of sport critical
    • e.g. Seeking fame and glory takes away from worshiping Allah
  • Avoid deviations
      • Commercialism
      • Gambling
      • Doping
      • The occult
      • Mixing of sexes
islam and sport33
Islam and Sport
  • For some, problem of global (“Western”) forms of sport
    • Commercialized
    • Glory and fame central
    • Media – public – exposure
      • Especially problematic for females
  • Not a problem for all…
abuja all africa games 2003
Abuja, All Africa Games 2003

Female Representation on National Teams at October 2003 All-Africa Games, Abuja, Nigeria

African countries with predominantly Muslim populations do send female athletes, who often make up significant portions of the national teams. AND countries with predominantly Muslim populations often do better then countries with smaller Muslim populations.

senegal
Senegal
  • Sport primarily masculine venture
  • Significant room for women
  • Dakar
    • Women’s Basketball
      • Third most popular spectator sport
    • Other sports
    • Multiple levels of participation
senegal36
Senegal
  • Obstacles
    • Gender neutral
      • Individual & infrastructural poverty –
        • Pas des moyens
senegal37
Senegal
  • Obstacles
    • Gender neutral
      • Individual & infrastructural poverty –
        • Pas des moyens
    • Gendered
      • Broad socio-cultural perspective
senegal38
Senegal
  • Obstacles
    • Gender neutral
      • Individual & infrastructural poverty –
        • Pas des moyens
    • Gendered
      • Broad socio-cultural perspective
        • Islam not primary factor
        • Though may be used to justify
        • Relatively tolerant form of Islam (Callaway & Creevey)
senegal39
Senegal
  • Obstacles
    • Gender neutral
    • Gendered
      • Broad socio-cultural perspective
        • Not particularly Islamic
        • Found across Africa and beyond (even in US)
senegal40
Senegal
  • Obstacles
    • Gender neutral
    • Gendered
      • Broad socio-cultural perspective
        • Femininity
          • Fertility
          • Ideal body-type
senegal41
Senegal
  • Ideal Body Type
    • Women’s form representing substance of
      • Herself
      • Her family
      • Especially her husband
senegal42
Senegal
  • Ideal Body Type
    • Women’s form representing substance of
      • Herself
      • Her family
      • Especially her husband
    • Muscles
      • Indicate physical labor
senegal43
Senegal
  • Ideal Body Type
    • With urbanization emerges
      • Drianke

Pharmaceutical misused to increase appetite so as to gain weight and appear more substantial.

senegal44
Senegal
  • Ideal Body Type
    • With urbanization emerges
      • Drianke
      • Disquette
senegal45
Senegal
  • Ideal Body Type
      • Avoid physical education
        • Doctor’s note
      • Counter forces supporting Athletic body
        • Headmistress
        • Role Models
          • Adama Diop
          • Mame Maty Mbengue
        • Remunerative careers
senegal46
Senegal
  • Role of Islam in sport?
    • Surveys indicate not a big concern for female athletes
    • Tolerant
    • Not dismissed
      • Studies, seminars
      • Sent team to 3rd Muslim Women’s Games in Tehran, October 2001 – post-9/11 solidarity.
senegal47
Senegal
  • Ahmadu Bambaat the World Cup 2002
sudan
Sudan
  • Islam
    • More restrictive practice for women in North
sudan49
Sudan
  • Islam
    • More restrictive practice for women in North
    • Mitigated by class
sudan50
Sudan
  • Outside Central Region and North
      • War, drought, poverty inhibit all
sudan51
Sudan
  • Orthodox Islam
    • Dampened female participation in sport
    • Like Senegal, avoid physical labor, e.g. wives and daughters in fields, if upwardly mobile
sudan52
Sudan
  • Orthodox Islam
    • Dampened female participation in sport
    • Like Senegal, avoid physical labor, e.g. wives and daughters in fields, if upwardly mobile
      • Physical labor for men also looked down on if upwardly mobile
      • Making even men’s participation in sport potentially suspect.
sudan53
Sudan
  • Orthodox Islam
    • Dampened female participation in sport
    • Like Senegal, avoid physical labor, e.g. wives and daughters in fields, if upwardly mobile
    • Being elite – tied to being good Sudanese Muslim (Doornbus 1988)
sudan54
Sudan
  • Effect of class
    • Among educated and confident elite
      • Muslim girls active in sport
sudan55
Sudan
  • Effect of class
    • Among educated and confident elite
      • Muslim girls active in sport
        • PE in British educational system
          • Volleyball, basketball, swimming
        • University of Khartoum
          • Pool – reserved days for female students
sudan56
Sudan
  • Effect of class
    • Among educated and confident elite
      • Muslim girls active in sport
        • PE in British educational system
          • Volleyball, basketball, swimming
        • University of Khartoum
          • Pool – reserved days for female students
      • But usually not beyond post-secondary education
sudan57
Sudan
  • Most do not have access to education
    • Quotas on girls
    • Parents reluctance
sudan58
Sudan
  • Most do not have access to education
  • Physical activity not avoided
    • Intense – chores – household, farm, childcare, etc
    • Ali Mazrui’s suggestion
      • More sports that draw on daily laboring skills (1987)
sudan59
Sudan
  • More restrictions
    • September Laws 1983
    • Islamicization after 1989 coup
  • Martial training for boys
  • Declining economy and civil war
    • Fewer elites internationally
sudan60
Sudan
  • More restrictions
    • September Laws 1983
    • Islamicization after 1989 coup
  • Martial training for boys
  • Declining economy and civil war
    • Fewer elite athletes internationally
  • Still, very elite still active
    • 2003 Abuja – one female athlete – tennis player
sudan61
Sudan
  • January 2004, in 2 days, passport for Yamile Aldama
    • Cuban born triple jumper.
sudan62
Sudan
  • January 2004, in 2 days, passport for Yamile Aldama
    • Cuban born triple jumper.
    • Olympic hopeful
    • Sudan – internationalstature
    • Hijab?
2004 triple jump gold
2004 Triple Jump Gold
  • Francoise Mbango Etone of Cameroon
new sudanese athlete
New Sudanese Athlete
  • Nawal el Jack
    • Set the girl’s record (and a personal best at 51.83) in the 400 meters at the World Youth Championships in July 2005 in Morocco. Competed at the World Championships in Helsinki in 2005, though did not place.
    • Where does she train? - I don’t know
nigeria
Nigeria
  • February 2003
    • Northern State, Niger, bans women’s football
      • “not in conformity with our culture.”Abdul-Khadir Kure, Governor
nigeria66
Nigeria
  • Zamfara in 2000
    • Declared shari’a law
    • Immediately women’s football banned
    • “the sport is against the teachings of Islam”state director of sports
nigeria67
Nigeria
  • Moot?
    • Many parents in Northern Nigeria would not let daughters play anyway.
nigeria68
Nigeria
  • Complex, diverse, multifaceted country
  • Colonial period
    • Strong, centralized Islamic states continued unlike in Senegal
  • Islam less tolerant of secular
  • In North, female seclusion
nigeria69
Nigeria
  • Current national and international climate has lead to:
    • Hardening of identities
    • Influence from Islamicists from Saudi and elsewhere
      • Wahabism
nigeria70
Nigeria
  • Why focus on women’s football?
    • Success of national women’s football team
    • Challenge to gender norms
    • Connection to practices in the South

Mercy Akide

nigeria71
Nigeria
  • Miss World Pageant
    • Two weeks later Africa Cup for Women in South with no problems.
  • Part of larger struggle within Nigeria
    • Amina Lawal case
  • Why football was singled out?
nigeria72
Nigeria
  • Why football was singled out?
    • Marked as masculine sport in much of football loving world (not the US so much)
    • Because men’s so globally popular?
      • Male hegemony reinforced
    • British FA’s ban on women’s football
      • 1921 – 1971
nigeria73
Nigeria
  • Why football was singled out?
    • Marked as masculine sport in much of football loving world (not the US so much)
    • Because men’s so globally popular?
      • Male hegemony reinforced
    • British FA’s ban on women’s football
      • 1921 – 1971
    • Issue of masculinity and football…
sport and masculinity
Sport and Masculinity
  • Muscular Christianity
    • British colonial influence
  • Zanzibar (Fair 1997)
    • Local Islamic elite collaborate with British colonial administration
      • Elevate men’s football
      • Stamp out Ngoma dancing
      • Within Ngoma – men dress as women
sport and masculinity75
Sport and Masculinity
  • Zanzibar (Fair 1997)
      • Within Ngoma – men dress as women
      • “Vulgar and obscence” by elite
      • “Effeminate” – Colonial administration
    • Football
      • Masculine!
sport and masculinity76
Sport and Masculinity
  • Cape Town, South Africa (Nauright 1998)
    • Muslim Coloured working class community
      • Promoted rugby
        • Discipline
        • Social cohesion
        • Manliness
        • Character formation
      • Muscular Islam
        • Physical intimidation
sport and masculinity77
Sport and Masculinity
  • Cape Town, South Africa (Nauright 1998)
    • Muslim Coloured working class community
      • Promoted rugby
      • Muscular Islam
        • Physical intimidation
        • Required by setting
          • Apartheid
          • Class politics
sport and masculinity78
Sport and Masculinity
  • Cape Town, South Africa (Nauright 1998)
    • Muslim Coloured working class community
    • Rugby and Muslim Coloured Identity
      • Even girls played – when they were young
      • As matured, steered to other sports
        • Netball, softball
sport and masculinity79
Sport and Masculinity
  • Cape Town, South Africa (Nauright 1998)
    • Muslim Coloured working class community
    • Rugby and Muslim Coloured Identity
      • Even girls played – when they were young
      • As matured, steered to other sports
        • Netball, softball
      • Women as supporters
        • Knit scarves
        • Sew uniforms
conclusions
Conclusions
  • Islam part of set of factors
  • Local trajectories
  • Masculinity as well as femininity
  • More research needed!
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