UN steps into the Hijab controversy – FIFA and IFAB prepare proposal
Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein of Jordan believes that Muslim women are being driven away from football by FIFA’s ban of the hijab. Prince Ali also believes that if the rule-makers don’t take immediate action to resolve this matter, the future of Muslim women playing football could turn dark.
Although physical sports in Olympics such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear a headscarf, the world’s most popular sport, football remains against it. So far the football authority, which is FIFA, has cited safety concerns to be the reason behind the ban.
Last year, the Iranian women’s football team was prevented from playing in the 2012 Olympics. The Iranian football team was supposed to play in a second round qualifying match against Jordan but the match abandoned just before the kick-off because women from the Iranian team refused to remove their hijabs.
Iran went undefeated to top their group in the first round of the Olympic qualifiers, however they were given 3-0 defeats in their four second round matches because they failed to comply with the hijab-rules of the tournament, hence their dreams of competing in the 2012 Olympics at London ended emotionally.
“It is very important that everybody has the chance to play the sport that they love and obviously the laws of the games have to be amended to allow that,” Prince Ali, who also happens to be a FIFA vice-president, said in Singapore last month.
“I think that football, being the most popular sport in the world, accessible to all, we should take the lead on this issue and therefore that is what we are trying to pursue and hopefully we will get a pass from IFAB (International Football Association Board, or football’s law-making body).”
A meeting on March 3 will reveal more about the future of hijab wearing Muslim women in football. According to reports a Dutch-designed Velcro hijab will be introduced in the meeting. IFAB and FIFA have amidst the hijab controversy for the past couple of years. Both institutions have been indecisive and failed to come up with a proper solution despite various attempts to diffuse the matter.
In a desperate attempt to resolve the issue instantly, United Nations has intervened and asked FIFA to allow Muslim women the right to wear a hijab. According to reports, Wilfried Lemke, sports adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, wrote a letter to the President of FIFA Sepp Blatter which included a proposal for the Saturday meeting.
Lemke wrote, “FIFA has the responsibility to ensure that everyone has an equal chance to participate in football”.
In 2007, FIFA outlawed the hijabs for safety reasons and instead allowed a cap but hijab wearing players rejected in because it exposed the neck.