- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Indian shooting champion Heena Sidhu is boycotting the Asian Airgun Shooting Championship to be held in Iran this year because female competitors will be forced by law to wear a hijab.

“Forcing tourists or foreign guests to wear ‘hijab’ is against the spirit of the game. Since I don’t like it, I have withdrawn my name,” Ms. Heena told Times of India.

Organizers of the December tournament in Tehran have made it clear that female contestants will have to comply with the country’s Islamic dress code, Times of India reported.

“You follow your religion and let me follow mine,” Ms. Heena added. “I’ll not participate in this competition if you are going to force me to comply with your religious beliefs.”

In an interview with New Delhi’s NDTV, Ms. Heena explained that sports are “such a pure thing” that politics and religion should be kept separate.

“The rules are the same for everybody, that is the beauty of the sport,” she said. “To have such a restriction on the arena is not in the spirit of sport. As a sportsman, I didn’t like it.”

She also expanded on her position in a series of tweets.

“Im not a revolutionary. But I feel dat making it mandatory for even a sportsperson to wear hijab is not in the spirit of a Sport,” she wrote.

She clarified that she wasn’t judging Muslim women who do wear the hijab.

“Im proud 2 b sportsperson coz ppl from diff cultures, backgrouds, sexes, ideologies, religion can cum 2gether n compete without biases,” she wrote.

In 2013, Ms. Heena became the first Indian pistol shooter to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup Finals. She is currently the Finals world record holder of the Women’s 10 meter air pistol event in Olympic shooting.

Boycotts similar to Ms. Heena’s have made headlines in recent months. Nazi Paikidze, the reigning U.S. women’s chess champion, is protesting next year’s World Chess Championship competition in Iran because of the country’s hijab requirement.

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