The question of minority rights is often tricky, as recent events prove so well. Groups in Thailand and the region have made demands which seem to fly in the face of logic and tradition. Relatively small numbers of Indonesians have called for the right to change the dress codes of athletes and entertainers. A small group of Thais not only demanded changes in a TV drama, they succeeded. While it is vital that everyone has the right to speak and to petition for change, it is not so clear that every such demand should be taken equally seriously.
The obviously misnamed Islamic Solidarity Games prove the point. The Games opened on Sunday in Indonesia in something of a shambles. As the Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera put it on its website, "Tensions mar Solidarity Games". The 44-nation event was in principle supposed to be an athletic competition in many sports. In short order, however, it became a religious-political debate over, of all things, bikinis. It sidelined the athletics completely, objectified many of the female participants and showed the ugly side of a small, noisy minority which has been a thorn in the sides of Indonesian governments for decades.
The Games' organising committee decided months ago that international rules would be used at the Indonesian events. Female athletes routinely wear two-piece kit for track and field, beach volleyball and swimming. But some national sports groups which ban two-piece equipment for women insisted on applying their special rules to all competitors.
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