Muslim Council, World Sikh Organization support ex-soccer ref

Posted By: Jason Mayoff · 6/21/2011 2:39:00 PM
The Muslim Council of Montreal says it supports a 15-year old West Island soccer ref who was told she couldn't wear her hijab during games.

FIFA regulations say players and officials can't wear any headwear, not religious, commercial or personal.

Salam Elmenyawi, with the Muslim Council of Montreal, says the hijab is not a religious symbol.

"This is a part of modesty," Elmenyawi says. "Anybody who wears a long skirt or covers themselves for modesty, does not necessarily mean that they are trying to show that they are of this religion or that religion.  Specifically, it's a behaviour that comes with religious requirement."

15-year-old Sarah Benkirane says she's collecting signatures from others in the league and hopes to pursuade officials to let her to wear her headscarf.

"If Sarah would communicate with us," Elmenyawi told CJAD, "we will support her all the way to the Supreme Court to make sure that her right is respected, which we have won before with the Human Rights Commission and they have accepted the message that we recommended to them on wearing the hijab on the soccer field."
Sarah is getting support as well from the World Sikh Organization of Canada, which is asking the soccer federation to review its decision.

The organization sent it a letter today saying both provincial and federal human rights laws protect freedom of religion.

It says embracing diversity is a well-established aspect of Canadian society.  

“Telling young people they cannot play soccer with their peers because they choose to practise their religion creates an atmosphere of intolerance and inequity.  Hijabs and turbans are worn and accepted in youth soccer leagues in every Canadian province and it has never been an issue elsewhere,” said Gian Singh Sandhu, the WSO’s policy advisor.