It really frustrates me when religious people choose to deny themselves an activity that they enjoy because society won’t accommodate their restrictions, which have zero basis in reality. (The fact that they then tend to get angry about everyone else being stubborn and inflexible is just the icing on the frustration-cake.)
But when inclusiveness costs as little as changing the start time of a basketball game, or allowing Muslim soccer players to wear hijabs, my sympathies tend to err in that direction. This is particularly true when one considers that many Muslim women face daunting social (and sometimes legal) repercussions for defying the rules of their religion.
On Saturday, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan — who is an executive committee member of FIFA — convinced the eight-member International Football Association Board (IFAB) to reconsider an earlier decision banning female players from wearing hijabs. The ban was based on a rule prohibiting “political, religious, or personal statements” on player equipment.
A New York Times article on the Prince’s attempt to overturn the ban quotes a pair of players, one from Iran and one from Jordan:
“Either we take it off or we don’t play, and obviously no one will take it off,” said Katayoun Khosrowyar, 24, who plays as a central midfielder for the Iranian team. “We went on the field, started training, and then when the first five seconds of the match went, the referee blew the whistle saying we can’t play anymore, we have to forfeit.”
“Suddenly I got a message that I can’t play, so it’s like my dream stopped,” [Reema Ramounieh, former goalkeeper for Jordan’s national team] said. “You know I had to go out. I started crying and I went out to the field. The coach told me that we don’t need you anymore so thank you, you can go outside and maybe you can play with the ball on the side. So it was like my dream, it’s done because I’m wearing a headscarf.”
IFAB also cited safety concerns in the initial headscarf ban, but Prince Ali’s Saturday presentation recommended a safer Velcro version. The Prince, whose wife Rym Ali does not wear a hijab, stated that “There is a right for women’s play regardless of any other issues, and we are simply trying to find the best way to facilitate that.”