Jakarta. Indonesian judoka Miftahul Jannah was disqualified from the 2018 Asian Para Games on Monday for refusing to remove her hijab, which, under rules set by several international sports governing bodies, she is not allowed to wear during competitions.
The International Judo Federation forbids the wearing of several types of garments, including "any kind of head cap or cover" during competitions.
In a section on hygiene, the IJF states that "the head may not be covered, except for bandaging of a medical nature."
Those who do not comply with these requirements shall be refused the right to compete, the sport's governing body says.
The International Blind Sports Federation (IBSF) has imposed similar restrictions.
Miftahul, 21, who is visually impaired, was scheduled to compete against Oyun Gantulga of Mongolia in the women's 52-kilogram competition on Monday morning.
"It's not that Muslims are forbidden from taking part in the competition. This is based on international rules that have been in effect since 2012; no judo athlete may wear a head cover during a match," Ahmad Bahar, who oversees judo at this year's Asian Para Games, was quoted as saying by state-run news agency Antara.
Bahar said an opponent could potentially strangle an athlete who wears a head cover and that this could be fatal.
"The use of the hijab is prohibited, because there's a dangerous risk associated with it," he said.
National Paralympic Committee chairman Senny Marbun has meanwhile issued an apology in response to the matter.
"The NPC is mortified, and we did not expect this to happen. I have to admit that this is due to the NPC's own negligence," he said at a press conference in Jakarta.
Senny added that the misunderstanding occurred because Miftahul's coach was not fluent in English and made a mistake when reading the rules and regulations.
At a separate press conference on Tuesday, Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi expressed hope that the IJF would be more flexible on the regulation in future.
"For example, the use of the hijab for Muslim athletes can be accommodated with a special design that will not put the athletes in danger," Imam said.
Other martial arts, such as taekwondo, allow the use of headscarves. The World Taekwondo Federation changed its rules to accommodate Muslim female athletes, as some of the strongest medal contenders in the sport are from Muslim-majority countries, such as Egypt and Iran.
In judo, however, athletes compete in much closer proximity compared with taekwondo or karate. The use of strangleholds and chokeholds in judo have been cited as more dangerous for those wearing the hijab.