Malaysia’s Terengganu reportedly wants to bar female gymnasts over their attire – but Syed Saddiq is not having any of it

“I will personally meet up with the affected athletes to ensure their future in gymnastics will not be compromised,” Malaysia’s Minister for Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said. Photo: Malaysia’s Izzah Amzan performing her ribbon routine at the Bishan Sports Hall at the 2017 Asean Schools Games.
The Straits Times

A Malaysian state has sparked concern after its government was reported as saying that it would prevent females from joining its gymnastics teams.

Citing Terrengganu Gymnastics Association‘s secretary-general and head coach Ahmad Akramin, Singapore-based CNA on Saturday (Nov 9) reported that the state would bar female gymnasts due to concerns over their attire.

According to CNA, the Terengganu government has “put in place” new sporting guidelines that include withdrawing female gymnasts as athletes would “display indecent movement” that would expose their bodies.

A Shariah-compliant code was also being drafted, CNA said.

According to CNA, the association said that female gymnasts who still want to pursue the sport professionally should train with the national team in Kuala Lumpur or move to another state.

After the report, Malaysia’s Minister for Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman said on Twitter that he would not tolerate the barring of women gymnasts from competing.

The 26-year-old wrote in a tweet that he “will never tolerate this” and that the athletes’ futures will be safeguarded.

“I will call for a meeting immediately to get this issue resolved. If it is true, KBS (Malaysia’s Youth and Sports Ministry) will take over control from Terengganu MSN (State Sports Council) and absorb their young aspiring athletes who are discriminated,” Bernama quoted Syed Saddiq as saying.

“I will personally meet up with the affected athletes to ensure their future in gymnastics will not be compromised,” he added.

He later lamented that the state government’s stand on the issue was confusing. The report contradicts an earlier agreement to allow its female gymnasts to participate in next year’s Malaysian Games (Sukma), he said.

“They told me that they’ll allow for the gymnasts to participate in Sukma. That they will be taken care (of),” Bernama quoted Syed Saddiq as saying.

“But at the same time, insisting something else when asked by the media. Uncertainty kills talents,” he added.

History of policing how women should dress

This is not the first time that Terengganu has targeted women’s attire.

In October, the Malay Mail reported that the state government tried to impose strict Shariah rules for its female athletes, but this was overruled by Putrajaya.

“What the athletes choose to wear is his or her right,” Malay Mail quoted Syed Saddiq as saying.

“In the end what matters is that we are looking at a national hero or heroine who works tirelessly to represent Malaysia, who will work night to morning non-stop to win that gold medal and inspire millions of other Malaysians,” he added.

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In 2015, guidelines specifically targeting female tourists that required them to be “decently dressed” were considered by the state, according to The Star.

Under those guidelines, women who fail to adhere to the dress code would be called for counselling. In the case of underage perpetrators, parents would also be called in to attend counselling sessions, The Star reported.

The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) governed-state Terengganu state is widely considered to be one of Malaysia’s most conservative states.

According to Malaysia’s Department of Statistics, as of 2010, Terengganuan Malays make up 94 per cent of the state’s population, making them the dominant ethnic group.

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