FARE urges FIFA to overturn Hijab ban12 June 2011

The FARE Network have called on FIFA to change the rules of football to reverse the ban on religious headwear adopted by the world governing body, a ban that was reaffirmed this week for football at the 2012 Olympic Games.

The network argues that the ban affects the ability of religious minorities to participate in football and undermines efforts to develop the game in the Islamic world.

The ban first came into force in 2007 after a proposal to the group that makes FIFA rules, the International Football Board (IFAB), was introduced at a meeting in Manchester. The English FA was criticized at the time for ignoring its multi- cultural population and agreeing to the change as part of the IFAB.

The Executive Director of FARE, Piara Powar, today said, “The ban on the wearing of religious headwear in football is misguided and wrong. It contravenes the right to religious freedom on the pretext of safety.

“The ban impacts heavily on one religious and gender group in particular – Muslim women – whose choice to wear a hijab during games should be respected as a legitimate expression of their religious identity.”

FIFA argued on Monday that Muslim women are allowed to wear “a cap that covers their head to the hairline, but which does not extend below the ears to cover the neck.”

FARE argues the issue goes further, Powar continued, “The rules fly in the face of FIFA’s own objective of growing football in developing countries, and for those of us living in European states, the cause of using sport to increase social cohesion. Other religious minorities will also be affected by the ban, Sikh’s or Rastafarians who wish to wear turbans or head-coverings will find themselves breaking the rules of the game.

“The situation that is clearly not acceptable, FIFA need to undertake a full review of the rule, consider the contradictions and seek to amend it as a matter of urgency.”