International soccer body to discuss Quebec hijab ban

Soccer's international governing body will discuss Quebec's ban on players wearing Muslim hijabs, which led to the ejection of an 11-year-old Ottawa girl from a tournament near Montreal last weekend.

The governing body of world soccerwill take up the case of an 11-year-old Ottawa girl who was ejected from an indoor tournament in Quebec for refusing to remove her hijab, or Muslim head covering.

The board of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) will discuss the issue at a meeting in Manchester, England,this weekend, FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot said.

He had no further comment on last Sunday's incident at an under-12 soccer tournament just outside Montreal.

Asmahan Mansour was told by a referee to remove her hijab because it violated Quebec Soccer Federation rules.When she refused, she was told to leave the field.Her team and four others walked out of the tournament in support.

Quebec sports officials defended the decision by the referee, who was also Muslim. Valerie Ouellet of the Quebec Soccer Federation said the referee was following guidelines laid down by FIFA, which prohibit players from wearing clothing or jewelry that might endanger the safety of themselves or others.

"We're simply the ones to apply the rule put forth by FIFA," Ouellet said.

No specific guidelines

FIFA guidelines don't specify hijabs or clothing worn for religious purposes.

"A player shall not use equipment or wear anything (including any kind of jewelry) that could be dangerous to himself or another player," the FIFA rulebook states.

Quebec Soccer Federation officials said Muslim hijabs are specifically prohibited in tournaments and games because of the risk of a player being strangled by a loose bit of cloth.

But Mansour said she always wears her head scarf tightly tucked into her jersey. She had already played two games in the Montreal tournament without being asked to remove her hijab.

Ontario's soccer federation allows players to wear hijabs if they don't compromise the safety of players.

Sandra Campbell of the Canadian Soccer Association said FIFA rules are interpreted by provincial federations in their own way.

Premier Jean Charest, campaigning in Quebec's provincial election, has come out in favour of the referee's decision, sparking criticism from Muslim members of his provincial Liberal Party.