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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Montreal women demand right to play soccer wearing hijab, widening controversy

A group of Montreal women called for a reversal of world soccer body FIFA’s controversial policy to ban headscarves during soccer games. (File photo)

A group of Montreal women called for a reversal of world soccer body FIFA’s controversial policy to ban headscarves during soccer games. (File photo)
A group of Montreal women has demonstrated in protest against a decision by the Quebec soccer association to sack a referee because she wears a hijab, according to CBC News.

The protestors called for a reversal of world soccer body FIFA’s controversial policy to ban headscarves during soccer games.

The demonstrators – who played a pickup game near Montreal’s old port – said the association’s position was unacceptable.

“We’re asking FIFA and any other organizations to get out of women’s wardrobes,” Sana Saeed, the organizer of the protest told CBC News.

Ms. Saeed is one of about a dozen women who wears a hijab. She and her fellow demonstrators were playing soccer to protest the firing in June of Sarah Benkirane – a 15-year old who officiated soccer games for two years for The Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association in the West Island area of Montreal and in Vaudreuil.
The protest soccer match was also designed to counter FIFA’s argument that a headscarf constitutes a safety hazard on the soccer pitch because it restricts a player’s breathing.

The Quebec soccer association says it adheres to FIFA rules and demands to change them should be addressed to the world soccer body.

In February 2007, five teams from across Canada walked out of a soccer tournament in Laval, Que., because a Muslim girl was ejected for wearing a hijab.

Iran last month lost its chance of reaching the 2012 Olympics after its qualifying match was cancelled because the Islamic republic’s women soccer team appeared on the pitch wearing a hijab that covered their ears and neck and not only their hair as originally had been agreed with the Iranian Football Federation (IFF).

FIFA bans all religious and political symbols on the pitch but negotiated an exception with Iran involving a specially designed cap. Iran charged that FIFA’s decision to disqualify its women’s team constituted an attack on all female Muslim players. Iranian and other Muslim women players reject the cap as un-Islamic.

Prince Ali Bin Talal, a half-brother of Jordanian King Abdullah and FIFA vice president has said he is seeking to resolve the dispute between Iran and the soccer body. Prince Ali was elected to his FIFA post on a platform that emphasized women’s rights.

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