Wednesday, February 21, 2007


A first in women-only games
21 Feb 2007
Syed Umar Ariff

KOTA BARU: Nurul Farhana Azmi felt comfortable without the presence of men during a volleyball game last week. Clad in her tudung and loose sports uniform, she had no reservations as she spiked her way to win the game.The 17-year-old from SMK Tengku Imran Petra in Gua Musang relished her experience in the first all-women organised and all-women sports event known as the National Women Sports Nisa’ Games 2007, here in Kelantan.

Despite being perceived as an illustration of Pas’ conservatism in gender segregation and a copycat concept of a similar sports event by the Youth and Sports Ministry, Nurul could not care less for the sentiments. All that mattered to her was that the week-long event was held to respect a Muslim woman’s right to cover her aurat (parts of the body that must be covered in Islam) and there were no men ogling women enjoying themselves."It’s like having privacy during a public affair. I can wear my tudung and loose clothes and feel comfortable at all times, even during the most challenging part of the game."I’m most comfortable being around women. I feel respected since I can cover up my aurat during sports, when most people think that it should be the other way around.

"The event, which was launched by Kelantan Menteri Besar Datuk Nik Abdul Aziz Nik Mat, attracted 24 teams and about 200 participants from all over the country.Ten teams were from the Kelantan districts of Kota Baru, Tumpat, Pasir Mas, Gua Musang, Jeli, Tanah Merah, Bachok, Machang, Pasir Putih and Kuala Krai.Since this was the first Nisa’ Games to be held, the participants only contested in five events: Futsal, badminton, volleyball, netball and bowling. Male spectators, even relatives, were barred from attending the games.Even male members of the Press were not allowed to watch the games. However, Nisa’ crew members were on hand to take photographs of the women.

Bahrain sprinter Ruqaya Al Ghasara, who made headlines after winning the gold medal in the 200m dash at the Doha Asian Games last year with her aurat covered, was flown here to attend the games.She became the event’s mascot, or better still, Nisa’s idol.

The games made headlines for its ban on male spectators, and was labelled a political event given the fact that Nisa’ is affiliated with Pas. But 24-year-old Nor Azreen Abdul Aziz begged to differ. The bubbly lass from Kuala Lumpur , who played in the futsal tournament, said Nisa’ was not a political movement but a community and youth-based organisation. "We are just having fun. I had so much fun and hope that it will be an annual affair," said Nor Azreen, whose team took the futsal trophy. Nisa’, she said, did not even require members to sport a tudung and Nor Azreen and some of her teammates were prime examples of this.

In a Press conference after lauching the games, Nik Aziz said it was better for women to cover themselves as a sign of self-respect, especially in sports.The Pas spiritual adviser said many women athletes nowadays dressed up as if they were going "for a bath". Nik Aziz lauded the Nisa’ Games for promoting Muslim dressing in sports."Women should be respected. This (event) is one of the many ways to symbolise their stand," he said.

Nisa’ Games deputy director Salwati Muhd Ariffin said Nisa’ had been rebranded as a youth, welfare and community non-governmental organisation or a club since last year."We are not into politics. Our new approach helps us to enrol more women between 15 and 40 into Nisa’. It is not reserved for Muslims but is open to all women regardless of race and religion."Our aim is to help troubled youth and help them to get back on track."Salwati said that based on feedback from participants, the competition was a success. The girls were at ease among themselves since men were not allowed to participate or watch the games. "I am so relieved. They enjoyed the games very much. Nisa’ has not yet planned for another event next year, but the girls are already asking for it."

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