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Asian Games 2018

‘I will not remove the hijab’ – Indonesians hail blind athlete Miftahul Jannah, disqualified for her hijab at Asian Para Games

Tearful Miftahul Jannah refused to take off her headscarf and was barred from competing in judo because of a new rule brought in the day before her event

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 10:35am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2018, 12:54pm

Indonesians have thrown their support behind blind judo athlete Miftahul Jannah, who was disqualified from her Asian Para Games match in Jakarta on Monday because she refused to remove her hijab.

The 21-year-old Muslim was in tears after the referee disqualified her, with reports indicating that the rule banning the headscarf was only introduced the day before the judo events started – with organisers citing safety reasons.

“Defend your hijab. It is important to take part in the Asian Games [but] you have become a champion,” wrote one supporter on social media.

“You are the real winner. Maintain your hijab and do not open it,” wrote another, while one contributor said: “You are more noble in the eyes of God.”

Miftahul was scheduled to take part in the 52kg event for athletes deemed to have low vision. She had trained for 10 months for her chance to shine on the big stage on Monday. However, little did she know on the morning of her event that a technical committee meeting decided the day before that athletes would be banned from wearing hijab.

“Whatever the risk, I will not remove the hijab,” Miftahul, a national champion, was quoted as saying. “I’m feeling sad, yes, because I trained hard for the past 10 months, sometimes working so hard that I couldn’t even move my hands.

“But after all that, this is the result [disqualification]. The decision is made.”

Some Facebook users agreed with the decision, saying safety was the main issue with one telling Miftahul to choose another sport.

“Why do you choose judo? Choose a sport that can use hijab. Don’t blame judo because these are their rules already.”

However, another responded that hijab-wearing Indonesian athletes won gold at August’s Asian Games in Jakarta in sports such as taekwondo and pencak silat.

“There should be no difference between Asian Games and Asian Para Games,” the user – who claims to have been on the Asian Games panel for jiujitsu, wrote. “Why should it be any different?

“When I was on the Asian Games panel for jiujitsu, athletes from the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Indonesia wore headscarves and there was no problem. They used a special hijab that was standardised. Why is it suddenly different?”

Senny Marbun, the president of the Indonesia’s national paralympic committee, was reluctant to say much, shifting the burden on to coach Latif.

“It’s very sensitive. Just ask the coach,” he was quoted as saying.

Latif, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, said the home camp pleaded with organisers to allow Miftahul to compete.

“The rule was only applied yesterday [Sunday] after a technical meeting,” said Latif. “We tried to fight for her case. The only reason for this rule is safety, they say.”