London Olympics & A Minutes Silence
There can’t be anybody alive who’s not aware of the Olympic Games taking place in London this year. If you didn’t know before, you will now – through the media, through your council tax payments or perhaps by getting caught out in one of the new Olympic road lanes.
‘The greatest show on earth’ kicks off today at exactly 20:12 (8.12pm). The Opening Ceremony is expected to be watched by an estimated 4 billion people worldwide - that’s more than half the world’s population. Which is probably why the Israelis want to mark the Opening Ceremony with a minute’s silence to commemorate the Munich massacre in 1972.
Whilst we condemn the massacre and the tragic loss of life, we also agree with IOC President Jacques Rogge when he states that "We feel that the opening ceremony is an atmosphere that is not fit to remember such a tragic incident.’’ Indeed. And how would Arab states participating respond to a minute’s silence for slain Israelis when Israel itself makes marking the Nakba so difficult for Palestinians?
The call for the minute’s silence has been led by members of US Congress by both Democrats and Republicans and including President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. "If this were any other nation but Israel," Democrat Representative Eliot Engel added, "there would have been a moment of silence a long time ago." Engel accused the IOC of "playing political games."
If anyone is playing political games it is the US Congress – considering the volatile relationship Israel has with other competing nations and athletes why pressure the IOC into holding a minute’s silence when it has already expressed sympathy for the incident before?
Not only are they requesting that a minute’s silence be held at the London Games’ opening ceremony, but they’re demanding a minute’s silence be held at subsequent Games too. Why has it taken 40 years for the Israelis to demand this? There has been no similar call from the Americans, for example, to mark the 1996 bomb attack in Atlanta which killed two people during the Games there. And if we participate in the silence for the slain Israelis, would, then, the Israelis and spectators then participate in another minute’s silence for Ahmed Bouchiki? I think that’s a compromise worth pursuing, but I won’t hold my breath.
If you weren’t aware that the Olympics were taking place, you might not be aware that Ramadan is taking place too – it started last Friday. But the International Olympic Committee, for some reason, decided to impose a window of July 15 – August 31 on any city hosting the games.
Everyone knows when Ramadan happens each year, give or take a day; you can find it by searching for ‘when is Ramadan 2012’ and the first search result you get is from the famous ‘When-Is’ website. Easy. The IOC’s decision has put Muslim athletes and nations at a possible disadvantage. But not to worry because, as Lord Seb Coe puts it in the Muslim News: “teams will be able to order break-of-fast packs which will include water, nutritional bars and fruit, the Olympic Village will offer 24 hour catering and there will be back-of-house faith rooms for staff to use when needed.” Super.
Some Muslim athletes are fasting whilst others are not. There have even been a number of fatwa’s issued allowing Muslim athletes to delay fasting or to pay for meals for the poor in lieu of fasting. This spectator here is fasting and, in this heat, it’s hard work. I can only sympathise with Muslim athletes competing whether they’re fasting or not.
For the first time Qatar, Brunei and Saudi Arabia will all be sending female athletes to the Games. A good move that will hopefully be a step in the right direction towards full and equal rights between men and women in the Muslim world. There are some good female Muslim athletes out there – remember Nawal El Moutawakel?
This is the first in a series of Olympic articles, we’ll be profiling five British Muslim athletes taking part at the Games - Mo Farah, 29-year old Somalia-born long distance runner; Mohammed Sbihi, 24 year old rower; Abdul Buhari, 30 year old discus thrower; Husayn Rosowsky, 22 year old fencer and Lutalo Muhammad, 21 year old tae-kwon-do fighter.