Quebec teen soccer ref told hijab must go

June 22, 2011 at 8:29 AM
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MONTREAL, June 22 (UPI) -- A Canadian Muslim teenager is challenging a Montreal-area soccer group's order to remove her hijab headscarf before she can referee junior soccer games.

Sarah Benkirane, 15, told The (Montreal) Gazette she has been wearing the religious scarf for three years and has been working as a referee for two years for the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association.

Recently, someone complained to the league, which told her she had to remove the scarf or she could not work, she said.

The league told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. it was following rules laid down by the Quebec Soccer Federation. In turn, the federation's communications director, Michel Dugas, told the Gazette the organization upheld the headscarf ban, citing a decision earlier this year by FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.

"The decision is that players and officials shall not display political, religious, commercial or personal messages or slogans in any language or form," Dugas said. "That's a very recent decision and the federation has to respect the rules laid out by FIFA."

Benkirane told the CBC rules shouldn't be inflexible.

"Rules are rules and we have to follow them but as society changes we have to adapt these rules," she said.

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