Sunday, June 19, 2011

This Hijabi Has a Legitimate Complaint

Unlike the Iran Football Federation's political shenanigans to create controversy over FIFA's hijab regulations, a 15-year-old Montreal hijabi has a legitimate complaint.

You'll remember FIFA disqualified Iranian footballers from a 2012 Olympic qualifying match for violating the hijab ban. Much shouting and hurt feelings ensued, although two years ago Iran signed an agreement to the ban and to wear specially designed caps.

But Sarah Benkiran's case is different. She has been a football referee for two years before someone noticed she was wearing a hijab and complained. Lac St. Louis league officials fired Benkiran. Again, we see FIFA rules conflicting with religious obligations. In Benkiran's case, her hijab never posed a problem until someone whined about it. There was no safety issue or specific incident in which the hijab posed a hazard. Above all, nobody thought it was worth rushing to the rule book to see whether she was violating the guidelines.

The problem here is the inconsistency in which leagues operating under FIFA regulations apply the rules. I don't necessarily agree with Benkiran that caps not covering the neck are inappropriate, but that's me. I can't judge how other Muslim women practice their religion.

Giving a waiver for a referee making calls for a teen league doesn't seem like such a huge violation of FIFA rules.

Clearly this issue is coming up regularly now. Perhaps FIFA should revisit Rule 4 to provide leagues with some leeway in handling the hijab issue to minimize tossing every Muslim woman off the playing field.


The Linoleum Surfer said...

Sheikha Sabria,

I really see this the other way around. It's exactly because FIFA rules should apply to everyone, that they need to ignore the games played by the Iranian FA and reconsider the guideline completely: that's the way football works, that if it applies to international competitions, it applies to national leagues, amateurs and even school competitions too.

I don't think FIFA should make an exception. That would be an even worse lack of logic than the ban is in the first place, and just promote the idea that Muslims always want to be "special".

I think they need to ignore how annoying the Iranians have been, and re-think the guidelines more sensibly. There simply is no safety issue that hasn't already been got around for some other reason. I wrote about this in response to your earlier post on the subject, so I won't repeat myself! But the bottom line is that we don't want exemptions from FIFA, we want logic and consistency. And the hejab ban just doesn't represent either.


Sabria Jawhar said...

Sheikha Sabria? Flattery will get you everywhere.

Ultimately, that was my point at the end of the post: FIFA should reconsider its rules to guarantee that Muslim women athletes have equal access to football.

But while they take forever to do so, some kind of waiver process would keep women playing. Something akin to the Maryland girls basketball league.

CaitieCat said...

Speaking as a referee myself, I've had players wearing hijab on my field before, and never had a problem. Though one of the players on an opposing team did, as I showed her the red card for making a second racist comment about her opponent's hijab (the first had gotten her a yellow, the second got another, which meant red).

FIFA's rules committee should use their brains for something other than keeping hair out of their throats. There's no safety issue, so nothing lost by allowing players to define their modesty as best suits them, and much to be gained by opening up football to as many women as possible.

I'm even more unhappy that this is happening here in Canada. :(

countrygirl said...

rules are rulues i don't see why give hijba wearer a special status. Let's say that durign a match for whatever reason a hijhab fell off what should th refee do stop the game so the woman can put in on ? another player could grab it as the do with tshirt. Nobody is banning women who wear hijab to play soccer,basketball whatever but if their team took part to some matched regulated with rules that say no cap (or whatever) they MUST understand that they have no special status only becasue they wear a hijab

Anonymous said...

Are rules governing written English not also rules, then, countrygirl?

In any case, I see absolutely no reason to ban hijabs from playing fields. Why would a referee stop a match for a fallen hijab any more than they do when a player's boot falls off?