Iran strong-armed the dhimmis on the board to lift the ban, and they folded like a cheap suit. The problem is, how will you know if there are women or men under the headbags? (See photos below)
AFP (H/T Martin) Football chiefs agreed on Thursday to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves during games, clearing the way for the participation of many Muslim nations in top-flight competition. Until the vote by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) here, players were prevented from wearing a headbag, or hijab, at the sport’s highest level for safety reasons and on religious grounds.
Critics said the ban promoted inequality at the highest level of the world’s most popular game. Public changes in the governing body’s thinking were clear last year when it was decided that the headbag was a cultural rather than a religious symbol.
In March IFAB – custodian of the game’s laws – said it was in favour of female players wearing the hijab in games organised by FIFA. That announcement followed the proposal of a Velcro hijab which comes apart by FIFA Vice President Prince Ali Bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
The world governing body came under pressure to lift the ban in 2007, after an 11-year-old girl in Canada was prevented from wearing a hijab for safety reasons.
In 2011, the Iranian team was disqualified for refusing to remove their headscarves moments before kick-off in the 2012 Olympic second round qualifying match against Jordan. The decision caused outrage in Iran, with President Ahmadinejad accusing FIFA of acting like dictators and colonialists.
Alex Soosay, general secretary of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), said AFC, based in the capital Kuala Lumpur of Muslim-majority Malaysia, would welcome a decision to lift the ban. “It’s a good news for us. It will benefit the community. It will be good for the Muslim community,” he said, adding that Middle Eastern and other Muslim countries had contributed ‘a lot’ to the sport’s development.
AFC chief Zhang Jilong had called for the ban to be lifted at the end of January, claiming new designs could prevent neck injuries. Officials with the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) said Malaysian women currently playing for the national team did not wear headscarves so a decision would not directly affect them. The headbag is worn by women beyond the age of puberty to observe Islamic rules on modesty and interaction of the sexes.
The decision by world footballing authorities to overturn a ban on women soccer players wearing the Islamic headscarf was welcomed by several Arab states. “This decision, impatiently awaited, makes us very happy,” said Sheikha Naima al-Sabah, the president of the women’s sporting committee for Kuwait’s football federation.
“It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on Kuwaiti women’s enthusiasm to play football,” Sabah added. The Kuwaiti women’s football team, like those of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, plays in various international competitions.
Oman does not field a women’s team, neither does Saudi Arabia, the most conservative of six monarchies in the Arabian Peninsula. Riyadh has yet to confirm if it will send any women athletes to compete in the London Olympics, and Saudi officials declined to comment to media on FIFA’s scrapping of the hijab ban.