Score One for the BBC!

A couple of weeks of ago, the BBC featured a story on Kurdish women football teams. Two weeks later, the story is still on the front page of the Middle East section of the BBC News’s website. I kept flirting with the whether or not to cover the story, but since it covers two issues that get little coverage in the same story–Muslimahs and sports–I decided it was worth looking at. The story itself had positive and negative points. By the time I finished reading it, I felt that someone at the BBC must be reading our site because this is the latest in a string of stories about Muslim women that don’t rely on stereotypes of Muslim women and automatically connect Islam with misogyny.

Image via the BBC.

Image via the BBC.

That was the main positive point with the story. In the entire article, “Islam” and “Muslim” were not mentioned once. There was also no mention of hijab or the veil, which was refreshing since almost every story on Muslim women somehow manages to have that mentioned. The author mostly sticks to quotes made by players on the team. Thus, we get mostly the opinions of the football players without much interjection from the author himself, which is rare in stories about Muslim women. So we hear from the football players how they think their participation in the sport is affecting their society’s view of women in sports without having the author impose his view on theirs:

“Football is a first step towards freedom and liberation for Kurdish women,” says Sanaa Karim, one of the players of Fatat Erbil [Kurdish Football Team].

She believes that it is that sense of empowerment which is the main motivation for women who struggle to overcome prejudice as well as the lack of training equipment and limited competition.

When the statement comes from Sanaa, it comes across much differently than if the author were to make that statement himself. The statement seems sincere and also free of any cultural baggage because it’s coming from a player, who is reflecting on her experience alone.

The one thing that I did find to be suspicious was this quote:

Like all of Erbil’s teams, Fatat Erbil’s coach is a man: Muhammad Sardar.

Why was it mentioned that the coach is a man? Men coach women’s team in various parts of the world all the time. So why did the author feel that it was necessary to specifically point out the coach’s gender in this particular instance?

But even with that foul point, the BBC definitely scores a huge goal for unbiased journalism.

  • Phil

    “Why was it mentioned that the coach is a man? Men coach women’s team in various parts of the world all the time. So why did the author feel that it was necessary to specifically point out the coach’s gender in this particular instance?”

    Isn’t it inconsistent to critique the BBC for this point, when the similar argument has been made here on MMW before. (you just need to substitute coach and shaykh and its almost identical)

  • Sobia

    @ Phil:

    What? Critiquing BBC pointing out that the coach was a male is VERY different than critiquing that most shaykhs are male.

    Both hold very different forms of power and play very different roles in the lives of women.

    Apples and oranges.

  • Jurusia

    Perhaps they mentioned that he was a man because they probably should be coached by women… but this blog site wouldn’t think that now would they?

  • Sobia


    Its not what this blog site thinks that matters. Its what the girls who are being coached want and feel comfortable with. If they are comfortable with it then what does it matter what anyone, including this blog site, thinks?

  • Jurusia

    If they are Muslim women they should not be comfortable with it. This blog site seems to support everything that goes against what is appropriate for women in Islam

  • Fatemeh

    @ Jurusia: questioning someone’s faith is not appropriate–that amounts to a personal attack, and our comment moderation guidelines do not allow this. This is not a religious site, but a media criticism one, that is open to all types of Muslim women.

  • habz

    as jurusia said, a muslimah shouldnt feel comfortable. This may be media watch, but u shouldnt forget bits of ur faith. I mean no offence at all but these women donot even hav their satr covered. It would be nice of u to spare just 1 line for the islamic aspect. And i hope u take this as constructive criticism as i mean no offence at all.

  • Faith

    I seriously doubt the BBC felt that the women players should be coached by a woman coach for religious reasons. Which is why I brought it up.

    Seriously, I’m surprised by Jurasia and habz’s comments because they completely miss the point of the post. The article in the BBC doesn’t even touch on religion. I wasn’t discussing what is or isn’t “appropriate” for Muslim women because that wasn’t my point. If Jurasia and habz honestly feel that Muslim women should not be coached by men, then so be it. However, that really wasn’t part of my discussion and I am not sure why it is being brought up. Fatemeh summed it up well, this is not a religious site but a media criticism site.

  • Jurusia

    Why is it when someone does not agree with your post you say we missed the point? We didn’t miss the point, we were talking about something in your post.

    And thanks for clearing up that this is not a religious site..perhaps do Muslim women a favor then and take the word Muslimah out of your blog title. If you are going to ignore your faith, then please don’t insult us with associating us with it.

    And Fatemeh, Its not a personal attack… unless this blog is actually a person.

  • Fatemeh

    @ Jurusia: We are Muslim women who critique images of Muslim women in global media. If you disagree with our postings, please do so respectfully (i.e., without calling our faith into question) or don’t read us any more. Questioning the faith of a contributor or another commenter because we do not agree with you IS a personal attack: it is meant to discredit someone based on their personal practice of Islam instead of through reasons relating to the post.

  • Habz

    “And thanks for clearing up that this is not a religious site..perhaps do Muslim women a favor then and take the word Muslimah out of your blog title. If you are going to ignore your faith, then please don’t insult us with associating us with it.”
    -i couldnt have said it better. MUSLIMAH is in your title, so why can’t you bare one thought for the islamic aspects of things. And if you can’t just make this into another one of those feminist sites that want to point out every man’s blunder. You specifically say “score one for BBC” and even manage to point out the cons, you should be representing muslimah’s opinion, and that, quite obviously would have the religious aspect. If however someone, (the author) isn’t knowledgeable or practising enough to bare one line for the islamic aspect, why bother writing here at all. Your articles are for the audience, which I am guessing are muslim females, why dont you make your article catered to their needs, which would in turn have the islamic aspect, rather than catered to the authors needs.

  • Jurusia

    Asalamu Alaikum Fatemeh – look at that closely that is the correct way to address someone, not the @ symbol…. what is that supposed to mean. AT me?

    I think that you all are fine on this blog unless someone disagrees with you. I guess we are all that way at one time or another. In general when I read this blog I’m just disappointed. It always seems you want to bring up the worst things. You feature articles of Muslim women who don’t cover, you never have anything nice to say about someone who is actually practicing their deen correctly. If you feel your faith is in question perhaps you should think hard as to why you feel that way… This post seemed offended that the BBC pointed out this team was coached by a man. Why? And instead of talking about why these women should not be running around like this not covered properly with a man coaching them you chastise the BBC for bringing it up… I just don’t get it.

  • Jurusia

    haha… so the blogosphere overrides muslim manners?

    Don’t worry about posting or not posting this reply… I’m overly amused at this point that this blog claims to monitor media representation but at the same time wants to sensor thoughts of its readers.

    ‘if they deal with the post in some way’??? oh my, you really have me rolling on the floor with that one. I’ll leave you alone now, I’m sure you have some articles to find that portray muslims in a bad light.

  • Jurusia

    Asalamu Alaikum Habz

    It looks as thought I’m censored from this site so if you get to read this consider yourself lucky.. Its good to know I’m not the only one that sees how odd this post was.

    Feminists run wild.

  • Sobia

    @ Jurusia:

    How we practice our faith is really no one else’s business. Every Muslim woman has the right to decide how to practice her faith, or if to practice it all, without being harassed by self-righteous, arrogant preachers. There is no one right way to be a Muslim.

    You say that Islamically these girls should not be comfortable with a male coach. Well, I say Islamically they SHOULD be comfortable with a male coach. There is plenty of Islamic evidence to show that men and women can have civil, non-sexual, and healthy relationships, and need not be segregated.

    Who’s Islam is right? Who’s Islam is better? You certainly don’t have any right whatsoever to decide. At the end of the day it is God who decides.

  • Fatemeh

    Editor’s Note: the comments have gone completely off-track. Comments will now be closed.

  • Fatemeh

    @ Jurusia: The “@” symbol is commonly used in the blogosphere to denote that one’s comments are directed toward a specific commenter. I’m sorry if I have offended you because I did not give you a “Salam,” as I rarely do to commenters. I meant no disrespect.

    I’m also sorry you don’t approve of our website’s operations or aim. But, due to our moderation policies, I can no longer print your comments because they have consistently violated rules #2, 4, and 5 of our comment moderation policy. This is not the place for judging religiosity; this is the place for judging media representation of Muslim women. That includes ALL Muslim women, no matter if they practice “correctly” or don’t.

    In the future, I’ll be happy to print your comments if they deal specifically with the post in some way.

  • Aynur

    The ‘@’ symbol is used everywhere on online blogs, if you don’t do much blogging then I can see how you wouldn’t notice that. I don’t think you can “assume” someone is Muslim just because they are reading this blog, as I know there are non-Muslims that visit this site.