JAKARTA (14 Feb 2012) – Muslim women are being driven away from football by FIFA’s ban of the hijab, with more likely to follow if rule makers fail to reverse the decision at a meeting next month, Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan said.
While physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition, football, the world’s most popular sport, remains against their use, citing safety concerns.
Last year the Iranian women’s football players were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second-round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kick-off.
Iran had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers after going undefeated. The Asian nation, however, was given a 3-0 defeat in their four second-round matches because of the players’ failure to comply with the rules. Their dreams of competing in London abruptly ended.
“It is very important that everybody has the chance to play the sport that they love and obviously the laws of the games have to be amended to allow that,” said Prince Ali, a FIFA vice-president.
“I think that football, being the most popular sport in the world, accessible to all, we should take the lead on this issue and therefore that is what we are trying to pursue and hopefully we will get a pass from IFAB.”
Founded in 1886, IFAB, or the International Football Association Board, is football’s ultimate law-making body comprising four members from the sport’s world governing body, FIFA, and four from the British associations.
They will meet in England on 3 March 2012, where Prince Ali will present the case for allowing players to use a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab that comes apart if pulled and, he hopes, will remove safety concerns.
“If you look at other sports such as rugby, they are allowed to play so therefore we hope it will be the same case with football,” said the Prince, who at 36 is the youngest member of FIFA’s all-powerful executive committee.
A three-quarter majority is required for the proposal to be passed by IFAB, who first banned the hijab in 2007 when 11-year-old Asmahan Mansour was prevented from playing a match by the Quebec Football Federation after she refused to remove her headscarf.
In 2010, FIFA adjusted the rules to allow a cap that covers the players’ heads but did not extend below the ears to cover the neck.
Asked if he was concerned that Muslim women would turn away from the sport if IFAB fail to permit a full headscarf, Prince Ali said it may already be too late for some.
“Well I think already we have seen that, and I think that is very unfortunate,” he said. “I think we need to give the right to play to everyone across the world and we have to respect each other’s cultures.”
SOURCE: Jakarta Globe