What could be the reasons for cancelling a marathon? Bad weather, lack of participants, or lack of sponsorship just might be a few legitimate reasons why. But in Saudi Arabia, the only reason that matters is that the grand mufti doesn’t want it to happen. King Saud University in Riyadh was to hold an all female marathon for its students but the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh, talked the president of the university into cancelling the event and no reason was offered as to why. I don’t know, but I have the feeling it’s just because it’s women that were running and not men.
This marathon wouldn’t have been the first all female sporting event to take place in Saudi Arabia. In January, a soccer game was held between two university teams in a closed stadium. It was for a strictly female audience and it garnered a lot of media attention for being the first event of its kind. And now the International Olympic Committee is pressuring Saudi Arabia to make it obligatory to send both male and female athletes to the Olympics. I wonder how that’s going to happen when women participating in sports is officially rejected in the kingdom.
So I come back as to why the mufti would object to this marathon. I’m sure it was organized so that it would be a strictly female event with no males present to conform to Saudi norms. Of course, this is Saudi Arabia and that’s just how things roll there. Could it be that the mufti is anti-fitness? I mean, there are a lot of morbidly obese people in the kingdom. Could this be a case that’s less about religion and more about the control of women? Who really knows. But with female sporting events being organized to conform to conservative Saudi norms, regardless of how we may feel about them, there should be no excuse to cancel them. Saudi Arabia definitely needs to get with the 21 century program and leave this foolishness behind.