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Islamic Fundamentalists Force Cancellation of Women's Meet in Bangladesh -- December 4, 2004

DHAKA, Bangladesh, November 30. FUNDAMENTALIST Muslims everywhere can sleep easier tonight.

From far-away Bangladesh comes word that that nation's national women's long-distance swimming championships, due to be held on Tuesday, were canceled after protests from an Islamic group.

Sahabuddin Ahmed, general secretary of the Bangladesh Swimming Federation, said officials agreed to cancel the competition earlier this week after more than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets of the host town Chandpur in southern Bangladesh.

"The local administration of Chandpur district decided to cancel [the meet] due to threats from an Islamic group," Ahmed said.

According to the Middle Eastern Times, the Islamic group -- the Anti-Islamic Activities Prevention Committee -- had branded the event "un-Islamic" and threatened to shut down the whole area, he said.

A message received from the group demanded that women should not be allowed to take part in the eighth national long-distance swimming competition out of respect for the religious feelings of the country's more than 100 million Muslims.

The men's competition is due to go ahead as scheduled.

"We had to compromise in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere here," Taherul Islam, the chief district administrator, said.

Four women had hoped to take part in the event.

In July Bangladesh's first women's wrestling competition was canceled after threats from Islamic groups.

Sporting officials described that cancellation as a "triumph for fundamentalism."