Tournament controversy over Hijab

A young Muslim woman was ejected from an indoor tournament in Canada for wearing a Hijab, an item of traditional clothing.

Eleven-year-old Asmahan Mansour was forbidden from wearing her ‘hijab’, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women, by the Quebec Soccer Association, which said the ban was ‘to protect children from being accidentally strangled’.

"I thought it was disappointing because I thought I would actually make a difference, but I didn't," Mansour told CBC News from Ottawa.

Mansour had been hoping that FIFA would produce a ruling in her favor on the matter when it held its annual general meeting in England but officials from the world’s governing body remained firm in their intention to not change the regulations.

"If you play football there's a set of laws and rules, and law four outlines the basic equipment," Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association, told reporters.

"It's absolutely right to be sensitive to people's thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to," continued Barwick.

FIFA said it would not alter the law dealing with items that a player is entitled to wear. Head scarves are not mentioned in that law.

"I would hope that we don't take this as banning the hijab as some people in the media have taken this," said Canadian Arab Federation director, Mohamed El Rashidy. "This by no means bans the hijab. It simply gives the discretion for a referee to make a judgment whether this headscarf, in this particular case, was safe to wear or not.

"The status quo in soccer games has been to allow female players to wear the hijab when it is worn safely," said El Rashidy, who is also a soccer referee in Ontario.

Nevertheless, Mansour's coach, Louis Maneiro, called the decision disappointing:"It's very difficult for us as a team. I, for one, am in agreement that there have to be rules to protect the children. If it had been a safety issue and the referee could clearly demonstrate that was the case then I wouldn't have had any problem with that. I hope Quebec can see that."

After Mansour was ejected from the game on 25 February, her team withdrew from the tournament, saying they won't come back until the rules are changed.

"I just hope that one day Quebec will change the rules and I'll be able to play," said Mansour. "I'm just hoping that any girl with the hijab does not go through what I went through."

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