Last week 11 year old Canadian girl Asmahan Mansour started a furor when a soccer referee ordered her to remove her hijab (head scarf) using the FIFA rule “a player shall not use equipment or wear anything that could be dangerous to himself or another player.” Setting aside the sexist presumption in the wording of that rule it gives a referee a great deal of latitude in deciding what he/she deems to be “dangerous.” Rather than bench Asmaham her team forfeited the game, walking off the field; four other teams also forfeited their games and left in protest.
The fact that she had already played two games that day with the hijab or that girl teams in all Muslim countries have players who also wear the hijab also exist isn’t the issue being argued. The issue is how far can one referee go in their interpretation against issues of religion or other personal identity. Asmaham’s mother, who does not wear the Hijab (it is Asmaham’s choice), feels it was an issue of discrimination, regardless that the referee who made the call was Muslim himself.
Today the FIFA ruled that the referee was correct because Law 4 on equipment “restricts a player's kit to the use of shirt or jersey, shorts, socks and footwear.” Which I have to say in my experience of small and large discrimination isn’t a surprise; individual makes decision which is tainted by what is in their own mind and then giant organization finds way to support them.
First, this is GIRL’S soccer. So we know right off that the FIFA isn’t going to enforce it’s policy because many girls out there will be wearing all forms of headgear in order to keep their hair back. The ref did not go and collect all the scrunchies and hair-bands. Also as we see in this picture of a typical girl’s competitive soccer team, there will be people wearing sweat bands and wrist bands, people wearing watches, braces, and some goalies wear brims to see the ball when against the sun. Indeed, you can scan and MANY things that are merely a shirt, shorts, socks and footwear.
Yes, but the Hijab could be a danger to the girl herself, if it is grabbed? Well except that there are “sport” Hijab with Velcro that simply come apart if pulled. The Canadian association’s memo has previously stated that it allows “"non-basic equipment" as long as it isn't dangerous”
Plainly, girl’s soccer is going to be a little different than FIFA men’s soccer; like scrunchies and breast protectors. And, when trying to encourage more females into sports, how far should one go for inclusion? Farther than this, is my belief. To me, this would be the same as in a large soccer tournament of 18 year old females having the one visibly out lesbian told she must remove her rainbow wrist band for “safety reasons.” Could the ref get away with singling a person out because of what was going on in their head? As the FIFA shows, yes. But is it right? I think simply because it isn’t our religion or that it is a practice we disagree or feel unsure about we shouldn’t evade the question? Other figures have come out to say, “Well, if I was a Christian, I would be asked to take off my cross” – yes, except that a) the jewelry rules all well known and b) nothing in Christianity requires a person to have a cross necklace; if they need a cross on them, they are free to magic marker it on their skin or sew it quite legally into their shoes (or have it on their socks).
This interests me because Asmaham is just the type of girl that women’s sports are trying to create. She wants to play, she wants to integrate sports into part of who she is as a female and use it in helping her understand herself in her gender AND her culture. Now that opportunity has been taken away; and why? Because someone really believes that a tear-away hijab is a serious danger to other players? Or because the west, and FIFA feels in its gut that maybe a visual muslim female head symbol IS a place where a stand must be made, and defended lest.....lest.....lest......a 11 year old openly muslim girl’s play soccer?
Jpeg 2 - http://www.nsgsc.ca/webpage.xmlx?node=7
1 hour ago