Rather than obsess on some apparent contradictions here about modesty, viewing the female body, and how competitive weightlifting is judged, I think this story should best be viewed as demonstrating the at-times remarkable elasticity of secular spaces when inclusiveness is an active virtue.

Even so, given that cultural forces governing the female body – gendered bodies in general – are almost always in conflict somewhere, I would be curious to know what conceptions of modesty would permit this accommodation from the point of view of the weightlifter – even though this is a weightlifting not a bodybuilding competition, it is still the contours of her body that are being observed and evaluated to guarantee appropriate technique even if the actual flesh is covered in tight, elastic clothing. And further, what potential conflicts within the bodybuilder’s immediate cultural milieu and not just between international sporting bodies and requirements of modesty might be involved here. That is, whose definition of modesty and its limits are being legitimized here? I suspect it’s not one that the athlete’s male religious leaders will endorse, but I could be wrong about that.

This is also an opportunity to reflect that despite the framework provided by Islam for the development of various modesty requirements, the nature and extent of those requirements, and the degree and intensity of their acceptance and enforcement has a localized cultural and community basis rather than a broad religious basis. 


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