Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Group mulls human rights case over FIFA ruling

Updated Sat. Mar. 3 2007 11:21 PM ET

CTV.ca News Staff

A spokeswoman for a Canadian Muslim women's group thinks there's the basis for a human rights complaint in the FIFA decision to maintain a ban on Islamic head scarves on the soccer pitch.

"I think this is something that needs to be taken up with the United Nations in terms of human rights violations," Anisa Ali of the United Muslim Women of Canada told CTV Newsnet on Saturday. "We, as Muslim women, have a right to participate in sporting activities just like non-Muslim women."

Asmahan Mansour, 11, was ejected from the game for not removing her hijab on the field.

Asmahan Mansour, 11, was ejected from the game for not removing her hijab on the field.

Brian Barwick, International Football Association

Brian Barwick, International Football Association

Her group will be taking action "ASAP," she said.

Ali pronounced herself surprised at Saturday's decision by the International Football Association Board (IFAB), which is part of the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), because three members of a Jordanian team were recently allowed to play a match against Japan while wearing hijabs.

B.C. and Ontario both allow religious headgear, she said. Not allowing such headgear "sends a very negative view, especially to young women, who wish to participate in athletic activities," she said.

The family of Asmahan Mansour, the 11-year-old soccer player ejected from a game last weekend for refusing to remove her hijab, said on Saturday they will continue to fight for the right to wear the traditional Muslim head scarf on the pitch.

IFAB, which administers the rules for FIFA, ruled that the referee who ejected Mansour made the correct call.

Maria Mansour, mother of Asmahan, believes her daughter was singled out by the referee -- who is himself a Muslim -- and is saddened she experienced "humiliation in front of the eyes of hundreds of people."

The young soccer player had hoped the IFAB would rule in her favour and spare other girls from the same struggle.

"In Ottawa, they don't say anything, and in Quebec they say something?" Asmahan told CTV News. "They could have told me on Saturday before Sunday, when I registered."

The board reviewed the case of Mansour, who was told last weekend that she couldn't play in an under-12 tournament in Laval, Que. unless she removed her religious head-covering known as a hijab.

Brian Barwick, who spoke on behalf of the board, said it is important to be respectful to "people's thoughts and philosophies," but added that the rules of the game must be followed.

"We believe our football to be inclusive. It's part of what we believe our football to be," he told a news conference.

"But of course if you play football there are basic laws. And law four outlines what the basic laws are concerning gear. I think it's absolutely right to be sensitive to people's thoughts and philosophies but equally football has a set of rules it has to adhere to."

The fourth rule lists the items a player is entitled to wear. Head scarves are not mentioned.

Goalkeepers are allowed to wear caps and protective headgear.

The Quebec Soccer Association said the headscarf violated a no-headgear rule set down by FIFA for safety reasons.

"We are happy that there is a decision. I wish that it will be the end now. Soccer is sport. This sport has rules and we want to play soccer. Let's play soccer now," Michel Dugas of the Quebec Soccer Federation told CTV.

When she was ejected from the game for refusing to remove the covering, Mansour's coach withdrew the team from the tournament in protest.

"The rule is not clear -- it's left for interpretation and to the discretion of referees to make that call," Louis Maneiro, Asmahan's coach, told CTV Ottawa.

With files from CTV News, CTV Ottawa and CTV Montreal