Alberta Liberals accused the provincial government Tuesday of ignoring basic human rights after a 14-year-old girl was forced to leave a Calgary soccer game for wearing a Muslim headscarf.
"This incident is the latest in a long line of needless controversies that should be behind us, including the wearing of turbans, religious symbols and the like," Alberta Liberal Leader Kevin Taft said in the legislature.
Recreation Minister Hector Goudreau said Monday in Calgary that he supports the referee's decision to force Safaa Menhem to leave Saturday's game, at least for now. Safaa was wearing a hijab, which covers the hair and neck as part of a religious requirement to dress modestly.
Taft asked Premier Ed Stelmach why the government is "allowing soccer rules to trump basic human rights?"
Stelmach responded that Goudreau was simply supporting the referee that made the decision, but has also agreed to meet with both sides to work out an arrangement.
"In this particular case, the referee was only following, apparently, the rules and regulations that he was supposed to be, for safety reasons, according to the association."
Opposition members weren't buying it, and cries of "it's not about safety" echoed after the premier spoke. . .
Sameer Zuberi, spokesman for the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations, said women around the world play all kinds of sports wearing hijabs, and he has never heard of an associated injury. He said many wear traditional hijabs without incident, but that a sport hijab, which is fastened with Velcro and easily pulls free, can ease any safety concerns.
"The hijab is involved in sports, and it's not something that's alien or foreign. It is there," he said.
"I think in Canada we're starting to see women wear the hijab, and that's something we're not used to, but it doesn't mean that women who wear the hijab cannot play sports." (MORE)