When 21-year-old Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi competed at the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, she did it with style. Hadi nabbed gold medals in the women’s floor exercise and women’s team events, as well as a silver in the women’s individual events and three bronze medals. Now, the young athlete is receiving heavy media attention—though it’s not because of her stellar athletic performance.
According to Malay Mail Online, Muslims are taking to various social media channels to criticize Hadi for showing her “aurat” (roughly translated as genitalia and other body parts that should be covered), as well as the “shape of her vagina”—all because she competed in a leotard.
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Senior Islamic cleric Perak Mufti Tan Sri Harussani Zakaria sided with Hadi’s critics.
“Gymnastics is not for Muslim women. It is clear that exposing one’s aurat and the shape of one’s body is haram [forbidden in Islam],” he reportedly told Astro Awani, the 24-hour television news and current affairs channel broadcast in Southeast Asia.
“If Muslim women want to participate in gymnastics, they have to find outfits which cover the aurat and this, in turn, might not be suitable for the sport.”
The prohibition of showing one’s aurat in Islam presents a kind of Catch-22 for gymnasts like Hadi who not only want to compete, but also manage rack up medal after medal when they do.
Though Hadi’s outfit has generated controversy, she also has a fair amount of support, in the form of a Facebook page full of sympathetic messages and fan art. Hadi has also responded to her fans directly on the Facebook page, thanking them for their kindness and generosity.
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Malaysia’s minister for youth and sports, Khairy Jamaluddin, also took to Twitter to express his support, suggesting that “gatal [perverted] men” avert their eyes when watching gymnastics if they don’t want to be offended.
In gymnastics Farah wowed the judges and brought home gold. In her deeds only the Almighty judges her. Not you. Leave our athletes alone.
Throughout the fallout, Hadi has held her head high, remaining defiant and unwavering in her determination to compete, tweeting: “Empty cans make the most noise.” In Internet-speak, that roughly translates to “Bye, haters.”
H/T Malay Mail Online | Photo via Farah Ann Abdul Hadi/Facebook
Kasia Pilat is a multimedia journalist who worked with the Daily Dot while completing her thesis project with New York University. She's also contributed to WNYC, the Guardian U.S., and Paste Magazine. In 2016, she was a finalist for the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award for her multimedia website What Is Home?.