Rule against hijab stands: world soccer body

An 11-year-old Ottawa soccer player will continue to fight to wear her hijab, even though the world's top soccer association has refused to change its rules.

An 11-year-old Ottawa soccer player said Saturday she will continue to fight to wear her hijab, even though the the world's top soccer association has refused to change its rules on the issue.

"I thought it was disappointing because I thought I would actually make a difference, but I didn't," Asmahan Mansour told CBC News from Ottawa.

"I'm proud that my team was there with me and my coach."

On Feb. 25, Mansour was not allowed to participate in a soccer game in Laval, Que.,because she was wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women. The Quebec Soccer Association said the ban on hijabs is to protect children from being accidentally strangled.

Mansour had been hoping that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, would produce a ruling in her favour on the matter as it held its annual general meeting in Manchester, England.

Instead, FIFA officials remained firm in their intention to not change the regulations.

"If you play football there's a set of laws and rules, and law four outlines the basic equipment," Brian Barwick, chief executive of the English Football Association,told reporters.

"It's absolutely right to be sensitive to people's thoughts and philosophies, but equally there has to be a set of laws that are adhered to," he said.

In particular, FIFA said it would not alter the law dealing with items that a player is entitled to wear. Head scarves are not mentioned in that law.

"I would hope that we don't take this as banning the hijab as some people in the media have taken this," Canadian Arab Federation director Mohamed El Rashidy said Sunday.

"This by no means bans the hijab. It simply gives the discretion for a referee to make a judgment whether this headscarf, in this particular case, was safe to wear or not.

"The status quo in soccer games has been to allow female players to wear the hijab when it is worn safely," said El Rashidy, who is also a soccer referee in Ontario.

FIFA officials made it clear they were not going to change the existing rules — or explain them, the CBC's Adrienne Arsenault reported from Manchester.

"We understand from people who were in or near the meeting that it was quite a heated discussion," Arsenault said.

"Do the rules mean a hijab is or is not allowed? The answer kept coming back that the laws are what the laws are," she said.

Mansour's coach, Louis Maneiro, called the decision disappointing.

"It's very difficult for us as a team," he told CBC News. "I, for one, am in agreement that there have to be rules to protect the children.

"If it had been a safety issue and the referee could clearly demonstrate that was the case then I wouldn't have had any problem with that. I hope Quebec can see that."

After Mansour was ejected from the game on Feb. 25, her team withdrew from the tournament, saying they won't come back until the rules are changed.

"I just hope that one day Quebec will change the rules and I'll be able to play," Mansour told CBC News.

"I'm just hoping that any girl with the hijab does not go through what I went through."