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FIFA Hijab U-turn Draws French Ire

FIFA endorsed proposals by its executive committee last month to lift a controversial ban on Muslim players to wear hijab on pit

By OnIslam & News Agencies | 2 Jan 2012

PARIS – A decision by the football’s governing body to allow Muslim female players to take on hijab on pitch is coming under fierce criticism from feminist groups in France.

“To accept a special dress code for women athletes not only introduces discrimination among athletes but is contrary to the rules governing sport movement, setting a same dress code for all athletes without regard to origin or belief,” three French groups said in an open letter to FIFA president Sepp Blatter cited by the Middle East Online.

The letter was signed by the League of International Women’s Rights (LDIF), FEMIX’SPORTS and the French Coordination for the European Women’s Lobby.

This followed a decision by FIFA to endorse proposals by its executive committee last month to lift a controversial ban on Muslim players to wear hijab on pitch.

The change came at a request from the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) women’s committee to reconsider the ban.

FIFA rules ban the wearing of hijab on pitch.

In April 2010, FIFA announced that it was planning to ban hijab and other religious outings during the 2012 Olympics.

Under this rule, the dreams of Iran’s women football team of playing in the London Olympics were dashed.

Under Iranian rules, all women are required to cover their body head to toe.

In order to be allowed to function domestically and compete internationally, the women football team play in full tracksuits, headscarves and neck warmers.

No Problem

The French group ridiculed the FIFA U-turn on hijab on pitch.

“To pretend that hijab is a cultural and not a religious symbol is not only preposterous, but untrue,” they said, in reference to AFC assertion that hijab was a “cultural rather than a religious symbol”.

“You neither can put aside the fact that the conflict that has opposed FIFA to the Iranian regime is linked to Tehran’s will to impose its own religious law to women’s sport.”

The feminist groups argued that Iran was seeking “to impose a political religious outfit for women, that covers entirely their body”.

“Sport must stay clear of political and religious interfering,” the French groups said.

“Its aim also is to eliminate all forms of discrimination. FIFA ruling is about to abandon this noble aim and FIFA will be accountable for that,” the organizations said.

Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.

France banned Muslim women from wearing hijab in public places in 2004 and face-veil in 2011.

Hijab has never posed a problem for veiled Muslim athletes.

In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, half a dozen of veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni completed in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery.

During the games, many hijab-clad athletes made it to the medal schedule, including veiled Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, who made history for Muslim women athletes after winning a gold medal at the 2006 West Asian Games.



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