05 June 2009

Canada: Muslim girl ejected from football because of hijab

[Via: - by Zahed Amanullah 2007 03 05 }] Eleven year old Asmahan Mansour was ejected from a soccer game in Quebec for wearing a hijab, despite being allowed everywhere else she played.

In Gurinder Chadha’s 2002 film Bend it Like Beckham, the young, female, British Indian protagonist fought against the prejudice of her well-intentioned family to pursue her love of soccer, Irish coaches, and happy endings. Five years later, an 11 year-old soccer player was asked by an official (a Muslim, incidentally) in the town of Laval, Quebec, Canada to remove her hijab before playing in a tournament. Asmahan (Azzy) Mansour refused and her team (and several others) walked out in solidarity with her.

The result has been a Zidane-sized storm of protest across Canada, with the international body FIFA starting an investigation. Quebec, the perpetually twitchy “distinct society” of Canada, was also in the news recently when one of its rural towns, Herouxville, established a “code of living” that prohibited stoning and female circumcision, ostensibly aimed at Muslim immigrants.

The soccer ejection was backed by Quebec Premier Jean Charest who, along with the Quebec Soccer Federation, was almost alone among Canadian organisations and politicians to support the ban. “It’s up to them to apply the rules, and they applied them in the way they saw fit,” said Charest. “I don’t have a problem with that.” There are a number of precedents worldwide in hijab wearing athletes of other sports, from gold-medal winner Ruqaya Al Ghasara at last year’s Asian Games to the Lady Caliphs basketball team to the Burqinis on the beaches of Sydney and Los Angeles (though the non-hijabis like Sania Mirza could use the same sympathy).

Mansour’s herself felt responsible for her team’s forfeiting the match. “I’m so sorry my team couldn’t play,” said Mansour. “It was my fault.” But despite the sympathy and precedents, FIFA’s rule-governing body, the International Football Association Board, leaned toward the referee in the case at a meeting in Manchester, England. “It’s absolutely right to be sensitive to people’s thoughts and philosophies,” said a representative. “But equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to, and we favor law 4 being adhered to.” (Law 4 governs what may be worn on the head during a game).

The Canadian Soccer Association, to whom Quebec authorities said they would yield to, is unlikely to go against the IFAB, though the ruling was also not seen as clearly defined. “I truly think they should have (overridden) what Quebec’s rule is,” said Asmahan’s mother Maria. “(She) is still hoping that Quebec will remove that rule someday so she will be able to play (in Quebec).” In the meantime, Azzy is determined to show that she’s not going to give up easily. She scored two goals during a game in Ottawa just as the FIFA ruling was announced.

The Muslim Council of Montreal said the Ontario Soccer Association allows players to wear religious clothing on the field and urged the Quebec federation to respect the religious rights of its players.

I see this as another example of how some idiots are trying to get immigrants to toe a cultural line. Asking minority groups to integrate cannot be equated with forcing them to assimilate and stripping them of their identity and rights!

The International Football Association Board, the game’s ultimate decision-making body, has backed a controversial decision to prevent an 11-year-old Muslim girl from taking part in a match while wearing a headscarf.

IFAB officials conclusion in Manchester, England was based on Law four, which outlines the basic equipment, as the chief executive of the English Football Association said. Law four lists the items a player is entitled to wear and head scarves are not mentioned. But what does Law 4 say?

Law 4 states that players “must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery).”

So they are saying that the hijab — an Islamic veil or head scarf — violated a no-headgear rule set down by the sport’s governing body for safety reasons. How on earth can Hijab be dangerous to her or another player??!!!!

Goalkeepers are allowed to wear caps and protective headguards. How come the caps and headguards are not considered dangerous on players but hijab is?!

After a week in the headlines, Azzy has one wish: ‘I hope, when I am old enough to try out for the national team, they will have this all sorted out.’

I wonder if it will ever get better!

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