Quebec soccer ref in hijab thrown off pitch
'I don't think it's very fair,' says 15-year-old
Soccer referee Sarah Benkirane has been told she can no longer work for Quebec's Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association because she wears a hijab.
The 15-year-old has been refereeing games on Montreal's West Island and Vaudreuil, which is located just off the island, for the past two years but was informed by association officials that she had been cut as a referee because of rules prohibiting religious garments on the pitch.
"I always felt like I was equal growing up in Canada, so I don't understand why they're going to take this right away from me," said Benkirane, who has worn a hijab since she was 12.
The teen said a complaint was made to the association, which led to the loss of her summer job.
The Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association told CBC it follows the rules laid out by the Quebec Soccer Federation and referred all questions to that group.
In a statement released Monday, the Quebec Soccer Federation said it upholds Rule 4 set out by FIFA, the international soccer governing body, which prohibits religious statements in team uniforms.
"The situation is clear," the statement reads. "Wearing a hijab is not allowed on Quebec's soccer fields just as necklaces, earrings, rings are prohibited, and we will follow the rule until FIFA says otherwise."
But Benkirane said the reasons given to her by her soccer association are not acceptable.
"Rules are rules and we have to follow them, but as society changes we have to adapt these rules," she said.
In February 2007, five teams from across Canada walked out of a soccer tournament in Laval, Que., because a Muslim girl was ejected for wearing a hijab. FIFA upheld its rule banning the hijab the following week.
The province's soccer federation said Tuesday that Canada's parallel organization also follows the FIFA rule prohibiting the hijab, and to change the rules, Benkirane would have to address the world soccer association.
Earlier this month, FIFA upheld a decision to prevent Iran's women's team from playing a 2012 Olympic qualifier game wearing head scarves.