Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein honoured for hijab ban overturn campaigning

Wednesday, 02 May 2012
By David Gold at Wembley Stadium in London

MWSF Awards_May_3May 2 - FIFA's youngest vice-president, Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein has been honoured for his efforts to overturn the ban on the hijab in football at the inaugural Muslim Women's Sport Foundation (MWSF) Ambassador Awards, held here tonight.

Prince Ali, elected in January 2011 and FIFA's youngest ever Executive Committee member, was given a Special Recognition Award for his achievements and contribution to Muslim women's sport.

In his short spell at FIFA to date, he has led the campaign for a relaxation of the rules regarding the wearing of the Islamic headscarf.

FIFA had prevented women wearing the garment on safety grounds, but Prince Ali successfully convinced the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in a meeting in Bagshot, England, earlier this year to lift the ban, which is awaiting final approval.

The Prince has also founded the Asian Football Development Project, which assists football associations across Asia, focusing specifically on grassroots, youth and women.

Since his involvement in Jordanian women's football, the national team has risen dramatically in the rankings.

Jordan women's national team midfielder Stephanie Al Naber and goalkeeper Reema Ramoniah (pictured above) accepted the award on behalf of Prince Ali, who dedicated his award to women's footballers worldwide, and expressed his optimism that the hijab ban would soon be overturned.

"I would like to thank the MWSF, I am truly humbled by this special recognition," he said in a statement read out by Al Naber and Ramoniah.

"It is with your support as believers in and advocates of the rights of all women to participate in the sport they love, that we were able to reach a positive outcome at IFAB where all members approved the proposal to allow women football players to wear a headscarf on the pitch.

"We are waiting for the final ratification in July, which I am confident, we will achieve, especially given the available safe and tested designs.

"I would like to dedicate this award to women players worldwide for their dedication to this beautiful game."

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Ali's sister, Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein (pictured below, second left), the daughter of Jordan's late King Hussein – who has a reputation as one of the leading champions of peace in the Middle East – was also given a special recognition award.

She has represented Jordan at the Olympic Games in show jumping at Sydney 2000, and is also a Pan Asian Games bronze medallist.

The Princess is also serving her second term as President of the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), and has been an International Olympic Committee (IOC) member since 2007.

The first ever MWSF ceremony was opened by the Football Association (FA) chairman David Bernstein.

Also in attendance at the awards were England's women's coach Hope Powell, a patron of the Women's Sports Foundation, and Arsenal stars Rachel Yankey and Alex Scott.

Bernstein told insidethegames that he was keen to engage with Muslim communities and wanted to see more Muslim Premier League stars to act as role models.

"We are very keen to reach out and bring them into the football world," he said.

"The people here this evening have done fantastic work to get this thing off the ground and getting many more Muslim women involved in this fantastic game.

"I think it is a great way for communities to get closer, football is a wonderful way of keeping people together.

"When you play football there is something you have in common and it can cross boundaries.

"There are boundaries with part of the Muslim community so I think sport is a wonderful way, football in particular, to bring communities together.

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"Role models as we saw tonight are very important.

"If we can have more people from the community playing Premier League football that would be absolutely fantastic, there is no better way of inspiring young people."

The event celebrated female role models in the Muslim community as well as others from outside who have worked to increase access to sport for Muslims worldwide.

In total, some 58 entries vied for six different awards, and they were judged by a panel including Lorraine Deschamps, one of women's football's top referees.

Deschamps was joined by Pinky Lilani, the food guru who founded the Asian Women of Achievement Awards, Durduna Ansari, a journalist and pioneer of the Muslim Women's Project and Mohammed Amin, the vice-chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and a treasurer of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester.

The awards were hosted by Na'eem Raza and Ruhana Ali, and the recipient of the very first honour of the evening was mother of three Maryam Amatullah, recognised as the volunteer of the year for her work as a cycle leader encouraging women to get on their bikes.

Golfer Sahra Hassan, who has represented Wales and Britain, won the United Kingdom sportswoman of the year award.

The community award was given to the Women's Only Group, who are based in Wales and are made up of member organisations who organise activities for the local community and ethnic minorities.

Prince Ali_Bin_Al-Hussein_Women_Fans_May_3
American sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, a London 2012 Olympic hope who was the first female Muslim to make it onto the United States World Championship team, was given the international sportswoman award.

The outstanding contribution award went to Tansin Benn, the President of the International Association of Physical Education and Sport for Girls and Women, who has been researching the experience of Muslim girls and women in sport.

Khadijah Safari, a black belt Muay Thai kickboxing instructor from South West London, who provides ladies only classes, was given the award for the UK coach of the year.

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Related stories
March 2012: AFC President Jilong thanks IFAB for lifting hijab ban
March 2012: Ban on women footballers wearing hijab to be lifted
March 2012: FIFA's hijab ban is prejudice, insists Prince Ali
March 2012: UN urge FIFA to scrap hijab ban to "challenge gender stereotypes"
February 2012: FIFPro backs FIFA vice-president's pro-hijab campaign
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