Canada: Team Wrapped Up in Hijab Debate


Sixteen-year-old Sheena Alami calls the flap over Islamic headscarves that has sidelined her Edmonton soccer team shocking.

"I was really disappointed that this whole issue was taking place in Canada because we're supposed to be a multicultural society accepting of different cultures and religions," she said yesterday.

The Alberta Soccer Association has temporarily banned Alami and her teammates on the Al-Ikhwat (Sisterhood) soccer team from playing until it makes a ruling on the safety of hijabs on the field.

Alami, a Grade 10 student at Harry Ainlay Composite High School and the daughter of Afghani immigrants, says she's worn a headscarf while playing soccer and basketball for years.

But she adds that following the ejection of a player from a tournament in Quebec, the Al-Ikhwat team took precautions before the start of their inaugural outdoor season last spring.

Thirteen of the 18 women on the team wear hijabs, and they secured a letter of support from the Edmonton and District Soccer Association.

"They said, 'No problem,'" she recalled. "And we were so relieved and so happy."

The summer went smoothly but shortly after the indoor season kicked off last month, a Calgary referee barred Safaa Menhem, 14, from playing while wearing a hijab - and an ASA ban on the entire Edmonton Al-Ikhwat team followed.

 


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