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Hijab ban pushes women to the sidelines

Hijab ban pushes women to the sidelines

Sport is linked with education, employment and empowerment. So it’s deplorable that FIFA has banned the Iran girls’ football team from the Youth Olympics, says Katherine Azmeh.

April 7, 2010 5:57 by

In a mind-boggling announcement, the girls’ football team of Iran has effectively been banned from participating in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games to be held in Singapore later this year. The charge: wearing the Islamic headscarf.

FIFA, the world governing body for football, upheld the headscarf ban following a review undertaken at the request of Iran’s national Olympic committee. The ruling is apparently based on a stipulation in football’s international rule book that states “basic compulsory equipment must not have any political, religious or personal statements”.

Really, FIFA?

While uniform rules for adolescents are certainly important, let’s look to another set of ‘rules’ as a point of comparison over the headscarf ruling.

In the US, Title IX of the Education Amendments law of 1972 stated that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance”.

One of the main impacts of the law was that federally funded US schools and colleges became obliged to provide the same sporting opportunities for girls as they do for boys. And nearly four decades later, economists have compiled extensive and convincing data to illustrate that increasing girls’ participation in sport has a direct and positive effect on their development.

So much stands to be gained by encouraging young women to pursue athletic prowess and competition: self-esteem, better health, education and employment. Studies have found that it leads to personal empowerment, tolerance, and sportsmanship.

There is no reason to believe these benefits would not be felt in Iran. Encouraging Muslim girls to engage in international athletic competitions suggests to them that personal power, discipline, and accomplishment can be fully realized whatever their religious, political, or societal background.

But the world’s governing body for football thinks that the minutiae of the uniform rules should trump all that. What a shame.

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  1. Miss Anne Thropic on April 8, 2010 8:34 am

    Disgraceful of FIFA to play an active role in further subjugating women in Iran, a country where women used to enjoy great personal freedoms. Anything that encourages Muslim women to be active, independent and empowered is to be applauded, regardless of whether they wear a headscarf to do it or not.

  2. Andrew on April 8, 2010 9:38 am

    If you wanted to bend the rules a little I’d just argue that hijabs are not “basic compulsory equipment”, and thus exempt.

  3. Peter on April 8, 2010 12:57 pm

    Well, or how about the iranian team plays like every other country team, with the approved uniform for olympic players instead of asking the whole world to bend the rules just for them. that would make it a lot easier for everyone and still provide opportunities for iranian girls in sports. the headscarf is a religious statement, like the kippa or wearing a cross and the the rules should be the same for everyone.

  4. Miss Anne Thropic on April 8, 2010 3:16 pm

    Covering hair is hardly asking the team to bend the rules. Surely it is better that the players are comfortable and feel respected than they not play at all. Does FIFA stop players crossing themselves on the field or praying too?

  5. Andrew on April 8, 2010 4:50 pm

    I think we’re losing sight of the most important issue … the comedy gold that is the picture accompanying this article.

  6. Peter on April 9, 2010 11:54 am

    miss Anne thropic, how about the remaining 99% of the world team players, do they feel respected when exeptions are made for one team in particular? Plus if you look at the picture, it is a little more than a scarf, it is an entire uniform. Let the 1% adapt to the 99% not the other way around. Gestures that players may do on the field when they score is a separate issue. actually players get sanctioned when they overdo it.

  7. Miss Anne Thropic on April 11, 2010 9:24 am

    I think in this case it is a matter of looking at the greater good, that being allowing women from a conservative Muslim society the opportunity to promote a healthy lifestyle, achieve their sporting ambitions and enjoy the resulting opportunities that come the way of international sportspeople.

    The headscarf and more modest uniform does not represent any safety hazard in the way that a crucifix necklace would on a sporting field.

    I’m sure the Iranian team respects the other players who don’t wear a hijab, just as other teams should respect the religious beliefs of the Iranian team and appreciate the hurdles they have overcome to be part of a national team.

  8. Peg Thomas on April 14, 2010 10:32 pm

    I would like to know how to most effectively set up a letter writing campaign to FIFA about banning the Hajib. I live in Minneapolis where dozens of girls wear the Hajib during all sorts of sports from soccer to basketball, baseball etc. This isn’t France, and shouldn’t be an issue. Peg


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