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Judo federation orders Saudi woman to compete without hijab

Maggie Hendricks
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Wojdan Shaherkani, the judoka from Saudi Arabia who is one of the first women to represent her country in the Olympics, has been ordered not to wear the hijab, or head scarf, during competition. The International Judo Federation said she will compete without a head covering.

"The Saudi Arabian athlete will take part in judo and she will fight according to the principle and spirit of judo, so without a hijab," said IJF president Marius Vizer following Thursday's draw.

Any head covering in judo is considered a safety risk. Judo players, or judokas, toss their opponents. Quite often the gi, the judo uniform that is used for other martial arts, is used to grab opponents. The gi is made of a heavy weave cotton, and it is easier to hold on to than the light, slippery fabrics normally used to make hijabs.

[ Related: Saudi Arabia sending two women to Olympics ]

It's not much of a leap to think Shaherkani could be injured if an opponent grabbed her hijab instead of her gi. Even in a different fabric, it could cause injuries as her head and neck would be vulnerable to a throw, instead of just her body.

Saudi Arabia made news this summer by allowing women to participate in the Olympics for the first time. It made this decision contingent on if the women wore the head covering, could be chaperoned by a guardian and didn't mix with men.

Though they don't compete against each other, judokas don't separate by gender for competition. Shaherkani will be competing and preparing near men on Aug. 1.

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