oumya Swaminathan, an Indian chess player holds the title of the Woman Grandmaster (WGM). She won the World Junior Girls’ Championship 2009 held in Puerto Madryn, Argentina edging out on a tiebreak score Deysi Cori and Betul Cemre Yildiz. She has pulled out of the Asian Team Chess Championship, to be held in Hamadan, Iran, from July 26 to August 4, calling the Islamic country’s “compulsory headscarf” rule violative of her personal rights. Soumya Swaminathan was also the Indian Junior Girls’ Champion in 2005 and 2006. In January 2011, she won the 2011 Indian Women’s Championship with a score of 8½/11. She became the Commonwealth Women’s Champion in 2012 in Chennai. In 2016, she tied for the first place in the women’s section of the Moscow Open with Anastasia Bodnaruk and Alexandra Obolentseva, finishing second on a tiebreak.
Soumya Swaminathan is overwhelmed by the response she has received following her decision to pull out of the Asian Team Chess Championship to be held in Iran from July 26 because she doesn’t want to wear a hijab. People of India supported her decision and they have become aware of this issue. Moreover, attire for any occasion should match the requirements of that occasion. She is not invited to Iran for an Islamic event, but Chess, and for a game of mind and concentration, she has all rights to be in clothes that make her comfortable to allow her for her best performance. Iran should learn that the whole world couldn’t be a victim of their preferences.
Iran should accept the fact that its dress code – which applies only to women – may be anathema to the vast majority of women in the world. Many women – non-Muslim as well as Muslim – regard the Islamic hijab, niqab, jilbab etc. as instruments of domination and cannot be imposed upon visiting women. Indeed, even Iranian women have revolted against this harshly imposed dress code and the moral policing that goes with it. It is indeed the height of hypocrisy that some – not all – Muslims who immigrate to Europe or the USA refuse to conform to local norms. But yet they impose their values on others, even whilst abroad. Islamic vigilantes threaten and attack women who do not dress up in accordance with whatever they consider as immodest.
I laud Ms. Soumya Swaminathan’s stance. I hope that the other women too boycott the tournament in Iran. It is a glad news that this little girl from South India had the guts and sense of pride to reject participation in an event even of a national nature because of the prudery and religious prejudice in Iran. It is gladness not only for the gesture itself but also because there is a general feeling amongst the North Indians that the average South Indian is not ‘nationalistic’ enough. Sorry if it sounds rather parochial. Religious people like Iran may never understand what those rights mean because they are not secular, constitutional republic like us. We like to believe that these are exclusive rights enjoyed by the Indians, thanks to our Constitution.
Among other chess players, Ukraine’s Muzhychuk sisters, Anna and Mariya, have been vocal about the human rights and gender equality and have refused to play premier tournaments in Saudi Arabia. The champion team from the Iran event will qualify for the World Team Chess Championship. Iran is also scheduled to host the open Asian Team championship concurrently. American chess player Nazi Paikidze also refused to play the knockout World Championship in Tehran, Iran, last year over the same issue. I totally support their decision. Why should their laws on dress code be implemented on us?
A hijab is a veil worn by some Muslim women in the presence of any male outside of their immediate family, which usually covers the head and chest. The word ḥijab in the Quran refers not to women’s clothing, but rather a spatial partition or curtain. The term can refer to any head, face, or body covering worn by Muslim women that conform to a certain standard of modesty. Hijab can also be used to refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, or it may denote a metaphysical dimension, for example referring to the veil which separates man or the world from God.
Most often, women wear it as a symbol of fashion, modesty, and privacy. According to the Encyclopedia of Islam and Muslim World, modesty in the Quran concerns men’s and women’s gaze, gait, garments, and genitalia. The Quran instructs Muslim women to dress modestly. Some Islamic legal systems define this type of modest clothing as covering everything except the face, hands up to wrists, and feet. These guidelines are found in texts of hadith and fiqh developed after the revelation of the Quran but, according to some, are derived from the verses (ayahs) referencing hijab in the Quran. Some believe that the Quran itself does not mandate that women wear hijab. In the Quran, the term hijab refers to a partition or curtain in the literal or metaphorical sense. The verse where it is used literally is commonly understood to refer to the curtain separating visitors to Muhammad’s house from his wives’ lodgings. This had led some to argue that the mandate of the Quran to wear hijab applied to the wives of Muhammad, and not women generally.
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