Prince Ali of Jordan believes that Muslim women shouldn’t be disqualified from world-class sports because they wear the hijab, the traditional Islamic head covering. This youngest vice-president of the world football’s governing body Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) is a vocal supporter in the campaign against the hijab ban. In 2007, FIFA, banned players from wearing hijab, citing safety concerns.
“This is not an issue of religious symbolism. It’s simply a case of cultural modesty. And I’m tackling this because it is a big issue for many, many women all across the world. It’s not an issue which will go away,” said the prince in a statement to Yahoo Sports recently. The Prince’s pitch to grant everyone equal rights to play soccer has United Nations backing. Sports are good for heart health and we’d be thrilled to see more religious Muslim keeping fit through Sport. The ban is an obstacle to Muslim women athletes.
Last year, Iran’s national women’s team withdrew from the West Asia Olympic qualifiers because of the uniform restriction. Three Jordanian players were also forced to drop out. The Jordanian’s disqualification incited Rahaf Owais, a Jordanian Football Association employee, to start a petition on Change.org: over 15,000 people signed it. Owais’s campaign grabbed international attention: the story was picked up on CNN and carried in leading US newspapers. Her cause attracted Prince Ali’s support, and was a pivotal contributor to FIFA’s decision.
Last March, in a separate action, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) defied FIFA’s ruling: permitting players to wear their headscarves. IFAB is comprised of a single representative from each of the English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish football associations, plus four reps from FIFA. IFAB actions must be approved by 75% of the vote and FIFA approval is necessary for every decision.
IFAB meets to ratify its decision to lift the ban in July.
“We held a meeting in FIFA with designers of a safe headscarf as well as independent technical testing institutes in order to discuss the new designs,” said Ali. A sports hijab, equipped with Velcro fasteners, has been designed for competitive use.
“Safety is important, but to date, there have been no reported injuries due the headscarf on the pitch,” said the prince. “We have a responsibility to ensure that all women who wear a headscarf are able to participate in the game they love. Football is a sport for all.”
Prince Ali, who is half-brother of King Abdullah II, was recently recognized for his contribution to Muslim women’s sport at the inaugural Muslim Women’s Sport Foundation Ambassador Awards. The event celebrated female role models in the Muslim community as well as non-Islamic figures who have worked to increase access to sport for Muslims worldwide.
Football Association chairman, David Bernstein, chaired the event; he told insideworldfootball that he was keen to engage with Muslim communities and wanted to see more Muslim Premier League stars as role models.
“When you play football there is something you have in common and it can cross boundaries. I think sport is a wonderful way, football in particular, to bring communities together.”
Image of a pretty muslim woman athlete by Shutterstock