SEA Games: Thousands back Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann in 'aurat' row

SINGAPORE (AFP) - Thousands of people have shown their support for Malaysian gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi after she was criticised for competing in revealing clothing at the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

By Monday, 11,000 people had "liked" the Facebook page "Farah Ann Abdul Hadi For Malaysia" which calls for "praise and support" for the double gold-medallist.

Last week, some critics in the majority Muslim country slammed the 21-year-old, saying they could see the shape of her "aurat" (genitalia) in her leotard.

Abdul Hadi wrote on the page: "I would just like to express my sincerest gratitude to all of you who have been supporting me.

"It is such an overwhelming feeling to have had such a great and positive respond from all of you."

Abdul Hadi, who won six medals in total at the Games in Singapore, has won broad support in the controversy including from Malaysia's youth and sports minister.

In response to her critics, Khairy Jamaluddin tweeted: "In gymnastics Farah wowed the judges and brought home gold. "In her deeds only the Almighty judges her. Not you. Leave our athletes alone."

However, divisions remain and one Malaysian Islamic group reportedly called for guidelines to help female Muslim athletes stay sharia law-compliant when they compete.

"Women should not be stopped from sports, but they must prioritise the Islamic codes in sports attire," said Roszida Kamaruddin, head of the female wing of the National Muslim Youth Association, according to the Malay Mail.

"Furthermore, there are many Muslim female athletes who succeed even by covering their aurat."

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