Canadian Muslim women’s soccer team fights ban

Sixteen-year-old Sheena Alami calls the flap over Islamic hijab 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.

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.

The ASA allowed Menhem to join her teammates on the pitch last week, while wearing a modified hijab tied at the back of the neck rather than under her chin, but has yet to rule on the Edmonton team.

Edmonton Sun, 9 December 2007