UN urge FIFA to scrap hijab ban to "challenge gender stereotypes"
Thursday, 01 March 2012
March 1 - FIFA is being urged by the United Nations (UN) to overturn the ban on women footballers wearing the hijab, the Islamic headscarf, during matches.
The issue comes to a head on Saturday (March 3) when the game's lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), are due to make a ruling at their annual meeting in Bagshot, England.
Wilfried Lemke (pictured), a special adviser on sport to UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon, has written to FIFA President Sepp Blatter, expressing his support for the initiative, being driven by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan who will recommend a revision of the laws of the game.
Lemke's letter said the time has come to allow players to have "the right to wear a safe, Velcro-opening headscarf in FIFA-regulated matches and competitions".
Prince Ali, FIFA's newest executive committee member who has been garnering support in the build up to Saturday's IFAB meeting, already has the backing of Asian Football Confederation (AFC) interim chief Zhang Jilong of China.
Zhang has also written to Blatter and, at the end of January, called for the ban on headscarves to be lifted, claiming new designs were totally safe.
In his letter, Lemke said that a change in legislation "would remove a barrier that can deter women and girls from participating in football" and would set "a positive example".
He continued: "It would send the message that each female player, from the top elite level down to the grassroots, has the freedom to decide whether or not to wear this particular piece of attire while on the field.
"It would give the opportunity for remarkable female athletes to demonstrate that wearing the headscarf is not an obstacle to excelling in life and sports, and would hence contribute to challenging gender stereotypes and bringing about a change in mentalities."
While Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition, football has outlawed it since 2007 for safety as distinct from religious reasons.
Last year Iran's women (pictured) were prevented from playing their 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan because they refused to remove their hijabs before kickoff.
Iran, who had topped their group in the first round of Olympic qualifiers, were handed 3-0 defeats as a penalty, ending their dreams of qualifying for the London Games.
February 2012: FIFPro backs FIFA vice-president's pro-hijab campaign
February 2012: Hijab ban is limiting participation, insists FIFA's Prince Ali
January 2012: Asian Football Confederation supports campaign to lift hijab ban on female football players
January 2012: Exclusive - "FIFA has to give same opportunities to everyone" says Prince Ali in hijab row
January 2012: French groups protest FIFA plan to lift ban on hijab