Asmahan "Azzy" Mansour, an eleven-year-old child, was recently thrown off a soccer pitch in Laval, Québec (by a Muslim referee), for wearing a khimār ("hijāb" actually refers to the entire modest dress of a Muslim woman). This head covering is allegedly in violation of the International Football Association Board's Law 4.
Reading this "law," however, one sees no prohibition of the khimār at all, only of equipment or apparel that is "dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewellery)." It is simply not evident that this head-covering poses any threat whatsoever to safety. In Ontario, the soccer association permits it; but the Québec association has a "no headgear" rule. In fact, a QSF official, Valmie Ouellet, claimed that a similar call would have been made had any other religion been involved. I wonder: would we have seen the "no headgear" rule applied to the yarmulke?
Despite all of the misleading headlines and blogchatter, IFAB did not uphold the Quebec ban. It didn't want to touch this one, in fact, with a ten foot pole, talking vaguely to the press after a regular meeting and scurrying away, refusing even to state whether the referee's decision had been correct.
All this fuss and bother seems rather odd, on the face of it, because girls in khumur play soccer at the international level all the time. (The photograph here is of the Iranian national women's team receiving silver medals.) But not so odd if one sees this incident for what it is--a convergence of political acts. The khimār for young Muslim girls these days is as much a defiant statement of identity as it is a religious obligation. And Jean Charest's crude demogoguery, matching that of Mario Dumont, is simply playing to the Hérouxville crowd in the midst of an election campaign. The xenophobic undercurrents here carry us far away from an innocent soccer match.
"Azzy" Mansour is just a kid. But now she's the latest site of struggle in the on-going culture wars. Can we just get back to the game, please?