The National Sports Council (MSN) has rebuked a Terengganu exco's remarks about the attire and performance of female gymnasts.
MSN director-general Ahmad Shapawi Ismail (above) said the assumption that a gymnast's skills and techniques were "actions that can sexually arouse men" was unacceptable.
"Sports is a stage for the country's athletes to showcase their self-discipline and sporting spirit, with the goal of waving the Jalur Gemilang at the national stage.
"As such the definition of 'arousing' does not exist in the arena of gymnastics and gymrama, and it should be made a basis for sports development policy," Ahmad Shapawi said in a statement today.
Yesterday, Terengganu exco member Wan Sukairi Wan Abdullah said the PAS-led state government is drafting a syariah-compliant code of conduct for athletes, and the state is inviting fashion designers to contribute ideas for suitable sports attire.
The guidelines would not only cover sportswear, but also how athletes should socialise and conduct themselves during events.
Wan Sukairi also said the state government was forced to withdraw from rhythmic gymnastics and women’s gymnastics events as it required athletes to expose their bodies, saying their movements were indecent.
Ahmad Shapawi said that while he appreciated the Terengganu government's effort to find appropriate attire for Muslim athletes, it should not be a matter of policy as clothing and sports are an individual's choice.
He said what attire an athlete dons for a given sport is up to the individual as long as it complies with international sports regulations and does not endanger the athlete.
He said if people feel strongly that their attire may not be syariah-compliant, they can compromise by wearing appropriate attire that meets sporting standards, or they can opt-out of the sport.
He remarked that it would especially unfortunate if the Terengganu government's plans would apply to non-Muslim athletes and impinge on their freedom to pursue their chosen fields.
"Just as we do not forbid such clothing to foreign tourists and non-Muslims, many of whom visit the beautiful islands in Terengganu and can be freely 'seen' by the Muslim residents of those islands," he said.
Meanwhile, he remarked that the issue of the attire of Muslim athletes also extends to swimming and diving sports, which Terengganu still participates in.
Last year, Wan Sukairi reportedly said the Terengganu government would begin implementing syariah-compliant clothing for state athletes from this year, but Syed Saddiq opposed the move.
When national gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi came under criticism for her outfit in 2015, then youth and sports minister Khairy Jamaluddin had likewise defended athletes’ right to wear the outfit of their choice as long as it is approved by the sport’s governing body.
He also quipped, “(There) should also be guidelines for gatal (lascivious) men to lower their gaze when they can't contain themselves watching sports”.