Hijab – the traditional covering for the hair and neck that is worn by Muslim women.
– The definition according to Merriam-Webster
But according to my wife, who has been wearing it since she was 14 and the many other Muslim women out there, the true identity of a Hijab extends beyond it just being a veil. In simple words, wearing it ultimately resonates modesty. No other phrase could explain it better. A recent article by Ayesha Nusrat published in NY Times gives you an elaborated explanation of what wearing the Hijab really means to these women.
This eloquently designed piece of cloth has generated a lot of attention, lately. Having recently been approved by the IFAB (International Football Association Board), an entity that determines the Rules associated with football, a Hijab has spawned both appreciations as well as criticisms.
The Arab nations have long-awaited the approval of the international body, so that their women could participate in the global stage. Now they can. However, the reaction of the West to this announcement has not been so welcoming, as they consider it to be unsafe on the pitch.
We do know their honest reasons, though. They believe allowing such a provision in football; will slowly sanction Muslim Sharīʿah law to be implemented in their respective countries.
One nation has brought in another dimension to women wearing Hijab on the pitch, by referring it to a “choking hazard” as it could get “twisted and suffocate the player wearing it”.
The likelihood of the above quoted act to take place is as close as to getting run over by a Polar Bear while strolling down a sidewalk in the 109 ° F summer heat of Dubai.
Freak accidents do happen. We hear of it occasionally. And all five versions of the Final Destination movie series, has explained that quite elaborately.
One such incident in Australia, involved a Hijab. In 2010, a Muslim woman was strangled by it while go-karting. The scarf apparently got tangled in the wheels of the go-kart, eventually suffocating her to death.
Probability of that happening on a football field is very low. This statement is not based on stats but based on common and logical sense. A different type of Hijab is used while participating in outdoor sports, one that does not interfere in the performance of the player.
Last week, a young girl (9-yr-old Rayane Benatti) was disallowed to participate in a national tournament due to “rules set by FIFA”, in the Canadian state of Quebec.
Following rules is understandable but if so was the case, why allow her to participate in all the league games leading up to the tournament? Why were the rules not implemented then? She is just 9 and she loves football. This is what Rayane had to say,
“It made me feel very sad,” adding. “I love soccer.”
She was forced to stand on the sidelines and watch her team win the tournament.
Even more outrageous was a recent comment made by French lawmaker Gerald Darmanin who apparently asked for a “clear signal to ban headscarves in football fields across France”, adding that sports “must continue to promote equality of the sexes”. His statement left me dumbfounded.
“Must continue to promote equality of the sexes”
What is a woman who freely choses to wear a Hijab while playing football got to do with promoting equality of the sexes? But his level of ignorance is acceptable. It is not new when it comes to anything related to Islam. And they are the ones that say Muslim women are oppressed.
There are few ways in which both parties could work with each other on this. One of them would involve having a strongly worded waiver read and signed by both the parent and the athlete prior to the girl’s participation, to avoid any legal issues that may arise. In this case, the authority would be void from any wrongdoings and the girl gets to play with her colleagues rather than standing aside and watching them.
My wife (who wears this beautiful garment out of choice) and myself, recognize one thing for a fact. God willing, if we were to be blessed with a daughter who voluntarily wants to participate in this sport, we would personally go beyond all means to make sure that she gets the chance to.
May be even to a point, where should would be the first Hijabi to participate in the Women’s national team here in the US. I may come across as flagrant now but it is worth a shout out to all the reluctant Muslim parents out there.
Only time will tell how the non-Islamic world intends to tackle this issue. Education and awareness from our end on the true characteristics of this religion that we practice would be a start.
PS: Not only do women athletes that practice Islam face this issue but Sikh men who play football, do too. They are not allowed to partake at times due to the turban they wear, which again is an important part of their religion.
I have to thank Yasmeen Al- Shehab on introducing me to this widely debated subject and my dearest wife on clarifying the myths and refreshing my personal knowledge on the reasoning behind this very garment.