Muslim groups reacted with dismay over the Quebec soccer hijab furor yesterday, saying excluding Muslim girls from playing sports because of their religious clothing is a blow for tolerance and multiculturalism.

“Here is the point: when this girl was given the choice between her religion and being in the game, she decided on her religion – and this will happen every time,” said imam Salam Elmenyawi, head of the Muslim Council of Montreal.

“If you don’t accommodate girls like her, then you’re pushing them into isolation, into a ghetto, and I think this is really dangerous.”

Barring hijab-wearers like Asmahan (Azzy) Mansour – the 11-year-old Ottawa girl at the centre of the controversy – just encourages those who would prefer Muslims form their own sports leagues and play outside the mainstream, others said.

In Ottawa, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations said it’s a good sign that Azzy’s team supported her by walking out of the Laval tournament on Sunday.

“The tremendous support shown for the Muslim player is an indication that common sense and respect for religious differences are more powerful than arbitrary rules,” the group’s executive director, Karl Nickner, said in a statement.

Hijabs aren’t a safety hazard because they can fastened with Velcro to come off easily in case of a collision, he added, comparing them to other headgear athletes use such as sweat bands and bandannas.


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