The world's top soccer association, FIFA, will be taking up the case of an 11-year-old Ottawa girl who was thrown from an indoor soccer tournament for refusing to remove her hijab, or Muslim head scarf.
The International Football Association Board will discuss the hijab issue at its assembly in Manchester, England on Saturday, said FIFA spokesman Nicolas Maingot by telephone from Zurich.
Mr. Maingot said FIFA would not speak further on the case until after the meeting.
On Sunday, Asmahan Mansour was told to either remove her hijab or leave the field in an under-12 tournament near Montreal.
Quebec's soccer federation said the hijab violated a no-headgear rule set down by FIFA for safety reasons.
“A player shall not use equipment or wear anything (including any kind of jewellery) that could be dangerous to himself or another player,” FIFA's guidelines say.
Valmie Ouellet, the co-ordinator of regional technical services for the Quebec Soccer Federation, said the referee was simply enforcing that regulation.
“We're simply the ones to apply that rule put forth by FIFA,” she said.
Ms. Ouellet said it's irrelevant that the game's referee happened to be Muslim, adding that a similar call would have been made if it applied to a different religious group.
“If I was a fervent Catholic and I wanted to wear my chain and my crucifix around my neck for the game, I wouldn't be allowed to do so for the same safety reasons,” she said.
Ontario's soccer association lets players wear religious headgear, while Quebec's rules are more vague.
Sandra Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Soccer Association, said FIFA's no headgear rule is up to referees to interpret.
“There's actually no specific rule for FIFA or the Canadian Soccer Association that says that they can't wear any type of headgear, and that includes a hijab or anything like that,” she said.
“What it does come down to is the safety of the athlete and the others and that's left to the discretion of the referee.”
Asmahan, “Azzy” to her friends, was allowed to play in two earlier games on the weekend because another referee didn't act on the rules. Her team withdrew from and forfeited the rest of the games.
“I don't understand why I can't play,” Asmahan said from the sidelines of the tournament. Four other Ottawa teams also forfeited their games and left the field in protest.
Asmahan's coach, Louis Maneiro, said the ordeal left many of the girls on his team in tears.