Muslim players win hijab battle in their struggle for women’s rights
By Rizwan Khatik - Wed Mar 07, 4:16 am
Singapore: Observant Muslim women soccer players won a first victory on Saturday with the endorsement by the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) decision to allow the players to test specially designed headscarves for the next four months.
The proposal presented to the IFAB, the soccer body that determines the game’s rules, was tabled by world soccer body FIFA vice president Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, a proponent of women’s rights.
Prince Ali’s campaign to lift the ban on Muslim women wearing a headdress in competition matches garnered over the past year widespread support from among others the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), the United Nations and the International Federation of Professional Footballers as well as members of the FIFA executive committee.
Prince Ali launched his campaign after Iran was disqualified for this year’s London Olympics because it appeared last year on the pitch in Amman for a qualifier against Jordan with its players wearing the hijab, the headdress that covers a woman’s hair, ears and neck. Three Jordanian hijab-wearing players were also barred.
IFAB, a grouping whose membership FIFA, England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland harks back to British colonialism’s globalization of the beautiful game, will review its decision in early July based on the experience of the coming four months.
While the IFAB decision constitutes an important tangible as well as psychological victory for Muslim women athletes, it by no way resolves all of their problems, many of which have less to do with religion and more to do with inbred traditions of patriarchic societies as well as non-Muslim prejudices.
“Female athletes in the Middle East face pressures that include family, religion, politics, and culture. These issues often take place over use or nonuse of the hijab, the traditional head covering for Muslim women,” concluded a recent study entitled ‘Muslim Female Athletes and the Hijab’ by Geoff Harkness, a sociologist at Northwestern University’s campus in Qatar, and one of his basketball playing students, Samira Islam.