I listened to the Taking on Tehran programme on Radio 4 today. The programme is about a British football team's participation in the Muslim Women's Games. There's also an article about the programme on the BBC News site.
I found the programme rather sad. Iran doesn't permit women to participate in most sports in the Olympic because of religious dress codes. Instead they have set up their own women-only games where no men are permitted so the women can wear sports gear.
The British football team does hopelessly badly. I don't know much about football, but even I know that a 38-4 defeat is dismal (and that wasn't their worst defeat). The reason for this is that Muslim countries are fielding their national teams and some countries have fielded non-Muslim teams which is permitted. Britain could send the national women's team but that would be rather disappointing for the Muslim girls.
The programme does offer some balance. We hear that the girls from strict Muslim countries don't understand why the Brits wear the Hijab when they don't have to. We also hear from contributors who are against the games pointing out that Muslim men can compete in the Olympics and that segregation is against the spirit of sport.
Whenever there's a discussion about women's right to wear the hijab or even the burqa, there's a part of me that feels that they should be permitted to do so if it is a free and considered decision. However, there's a stronger part of me that feels that it is wrong to cover and inhibit women in this way. This programme has made me more convinced that such restrictive dresss is inappropriate even when self-imposed.