Saudi Arabia’s first female Olympic athletes proudly joined the opening ceremony of the London Games, bringing up the rear of the male competitors. Their participation has led to a backlash that has branded them the "Prostitutes of the Olympics."
The participation of Saudi women Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani and Sarah Attar in the London Olympics inevitably brought controversy in the Kingdom, where hard line clerics oppose anything that involves a merging of the genders.
A prevalent view amongst those who support a ban on women participating in sports is that it “will open the evil door of lesbianism," an evil under Sharia law.
As the two women appeared at the opening ceremony, dressed in traditional hijabs, their very presence prompted a furious response on Twitter. Controversy over the participation of the female athletes was further fuelled when the International Judo Federation decreed that no hijabs could be worn during the competition. This ruling stands in direct contravention of the conditions imposed by Saudi Arabia's most senior sports official Prince Nawaf bin Faisal.
According to the Huff Post Faisal decreed the women could only join the Olympics if they "wear suitable clothing that complies with Sharia law, are accompanied by their guardian... and they do not mix with men during the games."
Global Voices reported insults were unleashed as Twitter user Sultan Al Hilali spread the Hashtag "Prostitutes of the Olympics." The tweets prompted both support and criticism, with some calling for the prosecution of Hilali.
Officials in Saudi Arabia have yet to respond to the necessary unveiling of Shaherkani in the judo events, or if the new ruling will lead to demands for her withdrawal from the Olympics.