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FIFA’s Ban on Modesty

Distraught members of the Iranian soccer team after FIFA announced its decisionPerhaps FIFA fears that the uniform of the Iranian players does not fit into the image of female players its president Sepp Blatter has in mind. After all, the man has explicitly stated his sexist tendencies several times. In 2004, Blatter drew sharp criticism by suggesting: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

Distraught members of the Iranian soccer team after FIFA announced its decisionCorruption investigations, widespread allegations of bribery, and other issues have seriously undermined the authority and image of FIFA (International Federation of Association Football). What does FIFA do to salvage its increasingly deteriorating image? It bans the Hijab (Islamic head covering). The ban is not exactly a surprise or stretch for FIFA, as they have been threatening it for years. However, FIFA has consciously made the Olympic dreams of females who wear Hijab into a game of political soccer. Disappointing? Yes. Shocking? Not even remotely.

In April 2010, FIFA announced that it was planning to ban headscarves and other religious apparel and actions at the 2012 Olympics. The Iranian female soccer team responded by creating special headscarves that were in line with FIFA guidelines. However, earlier this month, the Iranian team was forced to forfeit an Olympic qualifier match against Jordan when the game official ruled the headscarves worn by the Iranian team were in violation of FIFA game rules and regulations. The explanation and reasoning give by FIFA and those who sympathize with their decision doesn’t pass muster. It simply achieves one purpose: highlighting FIFA’s glaring hypocrisy and double standards.

In the history of the sport, there hasn’t been a single injury or death caused by a player wearing a headscarf and full body suit. However, FIFA still contends that the uniform worn by the Iranian team violates law four of its rules: “A player must not use equipment or wear anything that is dangerous to himself or another player (including any kind of jewelry).” Hijabs aren’t physically dangerous, especially the special kind created by the Iranian team, and they do not provide the players any form of an unfair advantage against their opponent. Soccer players are also permitted to wear helmets, and occasionally other gear is permitted in games. Furthermore, the Iranian team has designed headscarves that minimize the risk of choking due to the covering.

Despite the media’s banter about how the Iranians purposefully violated FIFA rules, the reality is that the team received assurances from the organization that their uniforms were in accordance with the rules. They managed to get through the preliminary rounds without any issues with FIFA. Why is this becoming an issue now? Furthermore, little attention has been paid to the fact the official at the game was Bahraini, and political tensions between Iran and Bahrain may have been a motivating factor for his decision.

Perhaps FIFA fears that the uniform of the Iranian players does not fit into the image of female players its president Sepp Blatter has in mind. After all, the man has explicitly stated his sexist tendencies several times. In 2004, Blatter drew sharp criticism by suggesting: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men – such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?”

FIFA also decided to do a 180 and state that the uniforms are not allowed because they are religious symbols. This seems plausible, but then we realize the scene witnessed at practically every soccer game where players showcase the sign of the cross, kiss the ground, and rush in to play. What about necklaces and prayer on the field? How will their displays of religion be monitored? Will they too be banned from playing? Since when was soccer for the secular only? FIFA has been notoriously inconsistent in implementing this rule and does not seem on enforcing it beyond the level of forcing Muslim women out of the sport. FIFA has claimed time and time again it does not want religious or political statements on the soccer field. This is an ironic undertaking considering their banning of the Hijab is a political statement intent on sidelining Muslim women from the game and using sports to achieve political ends.

Those who are sympathizing or agreeing with FIFA’s decision on the claim that “Iran forces women to wear headscarves” are glaring in their own hypocrisy. They insist on women’s right to choose how they dress, but at the same time, think it is acceptable for a group of men and officials such as themselves to dictate how a Muslim woman should dress. Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress hits the nail on the head: “If we’re really concerned with how women are perceived and treated in Muslim communities, it seems hugely counterproductive to adopt policies that force women to choose between abiding by the tenets of their faith and participating in activities that let them demonstrate their physical prowess and strategic intelligence.”

FIFA’s ruling will ultimately impact how and if Muslim women are able to participate in organized sports competitions. The issue of safety is one that must be attended to, no doubt; however, many Muslim athletes have been able to pursue sports and remain safe and modest at the same time. FIFA’s political decision has damaged efforts to gain more female participation in sports because it alienates a large demographic of women based solely on their religious beliefs. The current message sent to young Muslim female athletes discourages them from sports and follows the currently prevalent anti-Hijab rhetoric, which paints modesty as a restriction on achieving goals and dreams.

About Arsalan Rizvi

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19 comments

  1. Excellent Article!

    I love how they, i.e. FIFA, cite hijab as being “dangerous.” I wonder if Navy SEALS have considered hijab as a weapon of choice to choke their victims :p

  2. Great article; the issue has been really well-addressed Mashallah. Thank you Sis. Huda! 🙂

  3. Love this article! Huda did a great job 🙂

  4. The real issue is not FIFA’s banning of the team, the real issue is are women allowed to freely choose to wear hejab or not.
    I defend a woman’s personal freedom to choose her wardrobe, whether hijab or bikini.
    The mullah regime forces all women to wear hijab, which not only is inconsistent with personal freedom and Islamic law, it has greatly diminished the value of deciding religious matters.
    The day mullah regime of Iran allows all women to play regardless of their clothing, then they can complain of violation.

    • The following is not an invitation for debate, rather an attempt at briefly introducing the logic behind state-implemented hijab (it may be of interest to note that there are many excellent articles related to your “real issue(s)” on Islamicinsights)—

      In the West if a woman goes out in public without any clothing on she is arrested on charges of “public indecency.” This is due to the significant fact that every society has standards, even the “liberal” ones. Thus begging the question: WHO gets to determine the standards of a society? Since we Muslims believe that man in imperfect and God is Perfect, it naturally follows that we look to the God for guidance (via Qur’an and Ahlul Bayt).

    • Of course the real issue is FIFA’s banning of the team.
      Each country has the right to set it’s own laws, and if a county states that women should cover their hair then it is to be respected.
      FIFA should stop interfering in a player’s religious obligations.
      Yet again this is another example of how the West discriminates against Muslims.
      FIFA is a mafia, and Mr. Blatter and his thugs deserve to be prosecuted as criminals for their corruption.
      God bless the Iranian women and their bravery.
      May Allah SWT reward them for making the decision to continue to wear the hijab, despite the discrimination that FIFA has against them.

    • @Parsian, u have bought up a different issue entirely, Fifa never said anything about personal freedoms but rather cited “dangers” of wearing hijab

  5. Mr. Hadid
    Do you apply the same standards to France and European countries when they determine the standards of their society if they want to ban certain hejab?
    Secondly whether hejab is mandatory has never been agreed on by all. A majority of muslims in some countries, such as Lebanon, choose not to wear it. So it’s highly debatable. And in Iran it wasn’t the free-elected government that mandated hajab, it was an edict and no debate about it has ever been allowed. If hejab is truly divine, then why ban debate about it?

    • Show me ONE single Muslim scholar who has studied Qur’an and hadith in the original Arabic and says that hijab is not obligatory.

      ONE scholar is all I ask.

    • Mr. Parsian,

      As a human, there always exists a possibility of my reasoning being blinded by my desires. My humility must allow me to concede to such a possibility. Don’t you agree?

      Thus, out of respect to your sincere enthusiasm, I will try to re-examine my views using the many appropriate sources, including, but not limited to Islamicinsights articles (and the easily viewable books on al-islam.org, etc). This combined with prayer for God’s guidance may even serve me more than merely debating such issues here. Should, God not, thereafter, reward my sincere strive with guidance (ref. Qur’an 29:69)?

      Pray for me that I can keep my emotional and physical capabilities under the reigns of my intellectual and spiritual aspects so that I may not only see the truth but also accept it. In fact, let’s pray we can all do that.

      • Dear Hadid,
        You are a very sincere person and I believe your search for answers will also enlighten you on other matters.
        Prayers and research is the sign, I believe, are signs of devotion to one’s faith.

        • I hope that it is clear that as of right now, I still maintain my previous views. The purpose was to encourage prayers and research for myself, for others, and of course you. This reminder is working for me, as I hope it is for you as well.

          The fact that you agree leads me to believe that you must already be thinking and acting accordingly. I’m glad. Thus, I am sure that your sincerity will yield guidance as well.

  6. May God Help all the Muslim ,Christian, & Jewish Women fight for their right to covering their body & hair. Wherever they are in this world , society has always complained about the modesty of our females. In all three religions Women who actually follow their religion should feel obligated to cover their hair and body as did Mary (peace and blessings on her) and as did Fatimah (peace and blessings on her). I honestly don’t know of 1 Muslim girl who was ever been forced to wear it, they either wore it when they felt like they are starting to become closer to God or they wore it for fun & took it off whenever they liked. No one is actually forced to follow anyone, we are either willing to protect ourselves from satan or following others into his path. Power to my Irani girls!!! May God reward them for being a great lesson to those thank think its nessecary to wear slutty clothes

    • **to those who think it’s nessecary to wear slutty clothes in a “professional” or non-professional field. And another thing, this will not at all discourage Muslim Women from playing sports!!!!!!!!!! We are stronger than you think. If covering up my hair means I can’t play a certain sport then darn that means women should essentially be playing naked so as not to hurt there other parts? FYI,, the scarf is a protective garment that shields women from the glare of indecent individuals.

  7. The only good out of this is that at least now we know that iran has a football team….also to the ones who thought that islam cages its women,thanks to fifa now the world knows that our women are not caged…

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