Five young teams from across Canada walked out of a Quebec soccer tournament Sunday because a young Muslim girl was ejected for wearing a hijab.

Calling the rule banning the headscarf worn by Muslim women racist, four other teams followed Asmahan Mansour’s team, the Nepean Selects from Ottawa, after she was thrown out for running afoul of a Quebec Soccer Association rule.

“The referee was staring and pointing. ‘She can’t play,'” said Asmahan, Asi to her friends. “I was like why? Why can’t I play?”

Because of a safety rule, league spokesman Lyes Arfa said. He pointed out that the referee is Muslim himself, and that the ban on hijabs is to protect children from being accidentally strangled.

“We have to protect the players on the field, and that’s the main point. It’s not against the Muslims.”

And the league had told organizers about the rule – “The wearing of the Islamic veil or any other religious item is not permitted” – before the game.

Asi’s team was aware of the rule, but didn’t expect it would be enforced.

So when it was, many players and adults were outraged.

Girls backed up teammate

“I automatically went back to the referee: ‘Are you sure this is what you wanna do?'” said Louis Maneiro, the Selects’ head coach. When nothing changed, he said, “I just decided that there’s no way that I would allow our team to continue, and the girls backed up Asi very strongly.”


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