Saudi cleric says sport 'corrupting' women

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia - A leading Saudi cleric has urged the government to uphold a ban on allowing women’s sports in the kingdom, it has been reported.

Sheikh Abdul Karim al-Khudhair, a member of the Council of Senior Scholars, said sports were “corrupting” and “satanic” for women and they should stay at home instead, the Associated Press reports.

The news agency said Al-Khudair’s comments come amid increasing calls for restrictions to be eased to help address the country’s growing obesity problem.

The Saudi government had previously chosen to turn a blind eye to unlicensed women’s gyms in order to avoid criticism from religious scholars.

It is still illegal for women’s gyms or fitness centres to operate in the country, but many underground venues exist and these are becoming increasingly popular.

In January, health officials closed down one women’s fitness centre that was attached to a hospital in Jeddah.

“Anyone who violates regulations governing the running of health facilities would be punished severely because this involves people’s health,” Muhammad Abdul Jawad, director of the Medical Licensing Administration, told local media at the time.