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Soccer referee banned for wearing hijab

Soccer referee banned for wearing hijab

MONTREAL — A former Lac St. Louis soccer referee is blowing the whistle on rules she said prevent her from practising her religion.

Sarah Benkirane, 15, was told after two years of refereeing for the soccer association that she was out of a job, after a complaint surfaced over her wearing her hijab while calling games.

“For me it’s not really an option to take it off,” she explained of her traditional Muslim head scarf. “It’s part of my religion. It’s part of who I am. It’s the way I express myself, so I think I should be allowed to wear it as long as I’m not causing any harm to anybody else and I’m not.”

Under Rule 4 of the FIFA guidelines, which govern the Lac St. Louis Soccer Association, players must not only avoid wearing any item which threatens to cause choking or injury, but also “must not have any political, religious or personal statements.” All rules for players also pertain to referees under FIFA rules.

Edouard St. Lo, executive director of the Lac St. Louis Soccer Association said he agrees with the regulations. “It’s not just safety, because it does talk about political, religious and any kind of personal feeling that the person wants to display on the field. That’s why they’re all wearing the same thing,” he said.

Benkirane has drawn support from some parents, who have signed a petition allowing her to play. “Absolutely she should be able to wear it – it’s her choice,” said one mother.

CTV, 18 June 2011


  1. I feel sorry for the young lady and the person who complained is, more than likely, a jerk. However, the rules have a dress code and the Hijab is religious oriented. It is also debatable if it is required by the Islamic religion or simply a traditional form of dress. Different Muslims will say different things. Many religions including Christian ones have, what some would call required dress. Pentecostal girls and women are not allowed to wear pants or shorts, they must wear dresses or skirts, yet if they want to play soccer they must dress as a soccer player or not play at all. Many do not play at all. If you let the girl wear the Hijab then what about the person who wants to wear a sweat band that announces his religion or lack of religion which he may call his statement of beliefs. If you open the door for this young lady the door opens to everyone. Even if you say just allow one exception some jerk will take it to court to allow his or her son or daughter to also have an exception to the dress code.
    If you want to play a sport then dress in the required uniform or do not play. Sometimes your religion interferes with life, you must choose which to follow; do you give up your pleasure to follow the tenets of your religion? or do you fudge on your religion to engage in personal pleasure? To tell others they cannot set a uniform requirement because you do not want to make this choice is wrong. Sacrifice is the name of the game: there will always be temptations. Your choices will set you apart from others but they also are a model for others be they good or bad. My suggestion is to try to form an alternate soccer team and play non sanctioned games with the other teams or simply form another league.

  2. What a shame, let’s hope FIFA changes their ruling.

  3. I also feel bad that she had to go through this, but the rules do state clearly that no personal, political or religious statments can be made, and hijab is clearly a religious statment. I hope they follow through on this with people who wear other religious items such as crosses, yamakhas, and the like.

  4. This is getting really out of hand. Why does hijab bother so many people?

  5. Its not about the Hijab, its about dress requirements. This is not a lets pick on your local Muslim issue. Though in this case I would say someone got upset at a call and decided to get a little retribution. Just because someone tells a Muslim no does not mean they are anti Muslim, it simply means that rules are in effect that predates what that particular Muslim wants to do. A lot of people before Muslims hit walls of this sort and if you notice people still dress in uniforms, so they must have lost. I have seen nothing that indicates this young lady needs to have the rules bent for her beyond her own desire to make a stand for her religion.

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