By Guest Contributor Izzie, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch
Sania Mirza is a source of pride in India. She is the first Indian woman to:
- Win a WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) tour title of any kind
- Win a Grandslam Title
- Surpass $1M in career earnings
She has also won the Arjuna Award, which is the highest sports honour in India, and the Padma Shri, which is the fourth highest civilian award in India; she was named one of the “50 heroes of Asia” by Time, and named by The Economic Times in the list of “33 women who made India proud.”
She also happens to be a Muslim woman, who according to her father and coach, is a deeply religious girl who prays five times a day, tries hard not to play during the holy month of Ramadan, and reads the Quran every day.
However, to many Indian Muslims, she is a media personality, who doesn’t wear the “proper” attire that a Muslim woman is supposed to be seen in. She dresses like any other tennis sports star, and is popular for her style statements as for her skill with the racket. This resulted in a Maulvi in Midnapore (West Bengal, India) issuing a fatwa on her dress code stating “The dress she wears on the tennis courts … leaves nothing to the imagination.” He also said she should follow the example of Iranian women who wore head scarves and long tunics when they played in badminton tournaments. Islamist groups such as Jamiat-ulema-e-Hind allegedly threatened to disrupt her tennis matches.
Recently another fatwa was also issued against her, for living together with her current husband, before their marriage: the fatwa stated that ”It’s un-Islamic for a man and woman to see each other during the ceremonies before the ‘nikah.’” (Mirza’s husband stayed in her parental home for few weeks prior to their wedding. )
Mirza was also heavily criticized for hugging non-Mahram men after a match and for wearing t-shirts with bold statements on them. She also spoke in a conference about safe sex, which was understood as implying that she supported premarital sex, following which her effigy was burnt.
Fatwas have caught the fancy of the people worldwide and is popularly used by media, to project Islam as a misogynist religion with impractical restrictions. Zakir Naik, in his speech on the subject, explains why Muslims or Ulemas should not be giving so much importance to Sania Mirza’s dress code. Naik speaks about the importance of “diluting” the global effect of labeling Sania Mirza’s dress code as Haraam for the sake of a positive representation of Islam in the media. He further says that she is a “lesser sinner” than Muslim male cricketers who do not offer Salah at all. However, he also mentions her world ranking is “only” 34th and doesn’t deserve all the attention it is garnering.
In another related article, Dr Mookhi Amir Ali, while stating that he has better work to do than follow Sania Mirza’s career, goes onto say that she should have used her stature, as a successful Muslim woman, to question the short skirts and bring modesty into the game. She also should have worn a wrap right after the game was over, or chose not to wear the tennis dress, in all the advertisements she was featured in–the very advertisements which chose to feature her because she was a tennis star. The only attribute which will make her a good Muslim, according to him, is if she brought about any changes in the accepted “dress codes” for women in professional tennis.
Sadly, in the Islamic world, a Muslim woman’s piety is often closely related to her dress code. If she misses a prayer or a fast, not many go berserk as they would if she doesn’t wear a hijab. Does being a good Muslim woman begin and end with a hijab? Are Muslim women defined only by their modest dress codes alone? By mentioning that she is a “lesser” sinner, and by repeatedly saying that “at least” she offers Salah, Naik, while diluting some of the hype around her clothing, still suggests there’s a sense of shame in Sania Mirza being Muslim.
Mirza’s interviews where she states that she derives her mental strength from her regular prayers aren’t mentioned. Her father’s statement of her religiously observing her Ramadan fasts are forgotten. What is camouflaged all along in her spunky attire, and her sportswear, is that she is an extremely successful sports woman who publicly attributes it to her religion. The glory she brings to Islam, with or without her tennis skirts, is forgotten by all, including the factual Naik. Being an international sports star, and the first Indian woman to achieve everything she has achieved, should, in effect, be the reason people should be more attracted to Islam.
India is a country where Muslims are the minority, the literacy rates of Muslim women are much lower than for women of other religions, and Muslims in general are largely discriminated against. So instead of being a “lesser sinner,” or an “OK” Muslim, Sania Mirza deserves recognition for bringing positive attention to Islam. For being the first Indian woman to achieve so many laurels that no one of any faith was able to do before her.
About This BlogRacialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable
Keanu ReevesJohn Cho newsflashes.
Latoya Peterson (DC) is the Owner and Editor (not the Founder!) of Racialicious, Arturo García (San Diego) is the Managing Editor, Andrea Plaid (NYC) is the Associate Editor. You can email us at email@example.com.
The founders of Racialicious are Carmen Sognonvi and Jen Chau. They are no longer with the blog. Carmen now runs Urban Martial Arts with her husband and blogs about local business. Jen can still be found at Swirl or on her personal blog. Please do not send them emails here, they are no longer affiliated with this blog.
Comments on this blog are moderated. Please read our comment moderation policy.
Use the "for:racialicious" tag in del.icio.us to send us tips. See here for detailed instructions.
Interested in writing for us? Check out our submissions guidelines.
Follow Us on Twitter!
- jen* on Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’
- EinSC on Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot
- NickN on Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot
- Tonya on Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’
- aboynamedart on Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’
- What names are normal? Shifting the center of the world
- Will Black Woman-Directed Docs Make it to the Oscars?
- Quoted: A South African Muslim Woman’s Memories of Mandela
- Rumour Mill: Casting for the Man of Steel sequel and CW’s The Flash pilot
- Open Thread: Scandal S03 E09: ‘YOLO’
- The Walking Dead Roundtable: 4.8 “Too Far Gone”
- Voices: Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)
- The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.5.13: Black Twitter, Black Academics, Iran, Chicago and Elan Gale
TagsABC activism advertising african-american asian asian-american barack obama black celebrities comedy diversity fashion feminism film gender glbt HBO hip hop hispanic history hollywood identity interracial relationships Kerry Washington latino media mixed race movies music muslim politics race racial stereotypes racism religion Scandal sex sexism sexual stereotypes stereotypes True Blood tv Uncategorized white youtube