By Dr Mookhi Amir Ali,
Not being a great sport enthusiast I have not been following Sania’s career. If I have paid any attention to her, it was in the very beginning of the career for two reasons. One, that she is a Muslim. When I see a Muslim doing well in India I feel vindicated in thinking that Muslims are not as badly discriminated against as some leaders make it out to be. She is a devout Muslim coming from a devout Muslim family of Hyderabad. She is on record in a television interview that she derived her moral strength from the five times’ namaz she offers. And the second reason for my interest in her has been the controversy she created by her ways which were not so within the parameters ordained by Islam.
In 2005 when she won the US Open she received mixed reaction from Muslim clerics and the Muslim press. One said “we are all proud of Sania’s achievements and want her to do well but we do not understand why she has to wear the kind of dress she wears. Many could not fathom why Sania Mirza could not look like the devout Muslim she claims to be. A conservative Marathi paper run by a Muslim printed her picture without the legs!
Still, on the whole the conservatives among Muslim community have been very indulgent towards Sania Mirza’s dress. While Sania is the darling of the Nation, she is the pride of the Muslim community. She deserves all the forbearance which most of the Muslim bodies have exhibited. It was enough for them that her family regretted the fact that they have no control on the dress code prescribed by the tennis organizations. While the most conservative among Muslims accepted that she can’t help wearing what she has to on the tennis courts, the most moderate of Muslims failed to see why she had to be seen, filmed and photographed in the same dress even after the game is over. None asked why she did not place a wrap on herself soon after the game. She had no control over newspapers’ choice of her photographs to publish; but surely the use of her photographs in tennis “dress” in the advertisements was not without her consent.
Mirzas cannot influence the Women’s Tennis Association on the dress code. Surely they could dictate the choice of costume she was shown in by the advertisers of the product she endorsed. The baby of a devout Muslim family was placed by Allah in a position to be of great service to Islam and Islamic values. At the height of her career she could have questioned the unnecessary shortness of the skirts women are made to wear. She did no such thing. Instead she tried capitalizing on her fame by flirting with Bollywood. She appeared in glamorized make-over and outrageously revealing dress in a film function. There were suggestions that she was angling for a film career.