Article

FIFA dragged into Canadian row over girl´s hijab

26 February 2007 22:48

MONTREAL (AFP) - A young girl's expulsion from a tournament this weekend for wearing a hijab will be upheld by Quebec soccer officials, they said Monday, unless the world soccer federation FIFA changes gear rules.

Asmahan Mansour, 11, was ousted from a tournament on Sunday in a Montreal suburb after refusing to take off her hijab, the head scarf many Muslim women wear under religious principles.

Brigitte Frot, executive director of the Quebec Soccer Federation, told AFP she was not allowed on the field for safety reasons, not religious objections.

"It's unfortunate," she said. "I believe FIFA will have to rule, yes or no, whether hijabs are permitted on the soccer field. Whatever they decide, we'll abide by the rules."

Until then, however, Mansour and other Muslim women would not be allowed to play soccer in Canada's French-speaking Quebec province while wearing a head scarf, she said.

The incident that sparked a national outcry occurred about five minutes into a game Sunday, when the Nepean coach wished to substitute Mansour, who was not in the starting line-up, for another player.

Media reports said the referee, who is coincidentally Muslim himself, feared Mansour could be choked if the scarf were tugged on.

"Based on FIFA rules, the referee asked the young girl to remove her hijab, fearing it posed a danger to her and other players. She refused," Frot said.

Mansour's Nepean Hotspurs Selects team quit the tournament to show solidarity with their teammate. Four other teams also joined the boycott.

Rules of the Zurich-based FIFA, which governs international soccer play, do not specify a ban on head scarves.

But Frot insisted local players are covered by FIFA's strict dress code, which bans any equipment or wear, including jewellery, that could be dangerous to players.

The Quebec federation had previously disallowed players who wore piercing rings or medical bracelets, she noted.

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