Saturday, March 03, 2007

FIFA Made a Bad Call

FIFA has ruled:

MANCHESTER, England — Soccer's legislators have ruled that no player can wear a head scarf on the field.

The International Football Association Board [a branch of FIFA] was asked at its annual meeting Saturday to adjudicate on a decision to ban an 11-year-old Muslim girl from playing in a tournament near Montreal last weekend because she was wearing a head scarf.

However, this contradicts FIFA's own actions in the past:

FIFA officials have been promoting the game in Muslim countries by saying that it is all right for female players to wear the hijab.

The FIFA website even has a 2006 article praising the Iranian women's national team, with a photo of a hijab-wearing player taking a free kick.

This is the article to which the reporter is refering.

So why is ok in a Muslim country for all women players to wear the hijab and long pants, but in a multicultural nation like Canada that has people from all backgrounds they rule that the hijab should not be worn? This is inconsistent!

I think this was the wrong call. The fact is that in soccer (football) you can't use your hands and therefore your head is very important. However, the Ontario Soccer Association permits the hijab. Also check out this post from October 2005 about this issue from the Vancouver Island Soccer Referees’ Association:

Other players however, will have equally valid needs or other reasons to wear non-compulsory equipment in a game, and the referee should consider each of these on its own merits, applying the following test in each case: is there a demonstrated need for it; and does it pose a danger to that player or other players?

Referees are not expected to be knowledgeable in religions and cultures, just sensitive to them. If a player makes a claim that a certain item is important to his or her faith or culture, and if the referee has no knowledge to confirm or deny that, it is recommended that the referee allow the item, subject to it not being dangerous.

Referees should treat each request on a case by case basis. If the request is made for religious or cultural reasons, the referee should show sensitivity for those beliefs. Once satisfied there is a demonstrated need for the item, the referee will inspect it or have it inspected to ensure that the item is not dangerous to that player or to other players.
In every case the referee should use judgment and common sense in considering any request to wear non-compulsory equipment. Is there a demonstrated need, and is it dangerous?
§ Turbans: For many followers of the Sikh religion there is a need to wear the turban or similar head covering. The turban in itself is not dangerous, but the referee should inspect it to ensure there are no broaches or anything in or on it that may be dangerous.
§ Kara: Again, to many followers of the Sikh religion, the kara (bracelet) is of special significance, so in these cases there is a demonstrated need for it. The referee should allow the wearing of the kara provided the referee is satisfied the kara has been safely taped or padded and is not a danger to the player or other players.
§ Hijab: A female Muslim player may wish to play in a hijab (head scarf). Again this is a case of demonstrated need. The referee should do a visual check for safety. If there is any question that there may be something unsafe on or under the hijab, the referee should do a closer inspection or, if the referee is male, have a responsible female do a closer inspection.
§ Sweat pants: Some cultures and religions have strong beliefs that a woman’s legs should be kept covered in public. If a female player has this cultural or religious belief, she should be allowed to wear sweat pants or something similar, underneath her uniform shorts. Male referees should have a female check that the player is wearing shin guards.
§ Toques and gloves: In cold weather conditions, the referee may decide there is a demonstrated need for the players to wear toques, gloves, and other items to protect the players.

Banning the hijab in this Quebec tournament because of "safety" reasons is bull$#!+ in my opinion. If a ref can inspect it that there is no risk for strangulation or unsafe pins, then I see no need to ban it. I also don't like that this rule is left up to the individual refs because then it sets an inconsistent rule on something that clearly can result in all five teams forfeiting a tournament.

I think it's very interesting how this article states that the referee in question was Muslim himself:

When Asmahan entered her third game of a tournament in Laval, Que., on Sunday the referee -- who is Muslim -- pointed at her and then to the bench. She had been expelled for wearing a hijab, a Muslim head scarf.

I'm not sure if this is true because no other article that I have read has confirmed it.

Even though we live in Canada, there are also a lot of misconceptions about the hijab because many do not know why Muslim women wear them. Muslim women wear the head scarf as a sense of empowerment because they will not be judged by their hair or jewlery, but rather their personality. It's a sense of modesty and having self-respect. Muslim women only wear it in front of males that are not their direct relatives. Many Muslim women wear it, but some choose not to.

But consider the line between accomodation and racism as this article suggets:

MONTREAL -- Men banned from pre-natal classes at a Montreal community health centre so as not to offend Muslim, Sikh or Hindu women. The windows at a community gym obscured so that boys at the Orthodox synagogue across the street couldn’t see the Spandex-clad women inside. Most recently, a suggestion that it’s time to remove a large wooden crucifix from the Quebec national assembly. Is it political correctness run amok or the natural growing pains of an increasingly multicultural society?

That’s the debate in Quebec, where politicians, minority advocates and everyday residents are weighing in on what is “reasonable” accommodation of racial, ethnic and religious minorities in what is an increasingly diverse society. Mario Dumont, leader of the Action democratique du Quebec, said Quebec should quit bending over backwards to accommodate minorities and, instead, set out in law reasonable compromises to be granted to religious and ethnic groups. “We must make gestures which reinforce our national identity and protect those values which are so invaluable to us,” Dumont wrote in a letter to be sent to Quebecers.

In Canada we chose the hard way by trying to accomodate everyone (Quebecois, First Nations, immigrants who wish to keep their culture). In the US, you become American, period. While the US way is easier, I'm proud to live in Canada and even though it's the hard way, it's the right way!

Bottom line, FIFA made the wrong call in my opinion.


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