Hijab debate hits Canadian football
A young Muslim has been prevented from playing football whilst wearing the hijab.
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2007 10:28 GMT

Ruqaya Al Ghasara won gold at the Asian Games in a hijab [GALLO/GETTY]

Quebec soccer officials have said they will uphold a decision to expel a young Muslim girl from a tournament for wearing a hijab unless FIFA changes its rules for on-field clothing.
Asmahan Mansour, 11, was prevented from playing in a tournament on Sunday in a Montreal suburb after refusing to take off her hijab.
The hijab is the head scarf many Muslim women wear under religious principles.

Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec Soccer Federation, said she was not allowed on the field for safety reasons, not religious objections.

"It's unfortunate," she said.

"I believe FIFA will have to rule, yes or no, whether hijabs are permitted on the soccer field. Whatever they decide, we'll abide by the rules."

Until then, however, Mansour and other Muslim women would not be allowed to play soccer in Canada's French-speaking Quebec province while wearing a head scarf, she said.

The incident has sparked nationwide debate in Canada and occurred about five minutes into a game Sunday, when the Nepean coach wished to use Mansour as a substitute player.
Reports suggest the referee, who was coincidentally Muslim himself, feared Mansour could be choked if the scarf were tugged on.

"Based on FIFA rules, the referee asked the young girl to remove her hijab, fearing it posed a danger to her and other players. She refused," Frot said.

Mansour's Nepean Hotspurs Selects team quit the tournament to show solidarity with their teammate.

Four other teams also joined the boycott.

Rules of the Zurich-based FIFA do not specify a ban on head scarves.

But Frot insisted local players are covered by FIFA's strict dress code, which bans any equipment or wear, including jewellery, that could be dangerous to players.

The Quebec federation had previously disallowed players who wore piercing rings or medical bracelets, she noted.

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