Ottawa: The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), a national Muslim civil rights organization, has called the decision by the Quebec Soccer Federation (QSF) to ban a Muslim referee, Sarah Benkirane, 15, and a Sikh player, Sagerpreet Singh, from respectively refereeing and participating if they maintain their religious dress, a violation of Canada’s various human rights codes. In making this decision, the QSF cited the rules set forth by the world’s governing body FIFA, which forbids wearing anything of a religious nature on the pitch.
“Despite FIFA’s position as the international governing body on the sport, their mandate does not supersede the rights of Canadians to be free from religious discrimination in Canada. With the abundant availability of new religious headgear which can satisfy both religious and safety requirements it is clearly discriminatory to suggest that players ‘check their religion at the door’ when there is no practical reason for such a ruling,” said CAIR-CAN Human Rights & Civil Liberties Officer Julia Williams.
“While FIFA may argue that its ruling creates a ‘level playing field’ for all participants, its very nature is exclusionary. Upholding this ban sends the message to young people that what matters not are your skills but whether or not you fit a predetermined ‘look’.
“We call on the QSF to ignore FIFA’s ruling on the wearing of religious dress that does not present a health and safety hazard and to send a clear and unequivocal message to FIFA that their rulings cannot supersede Canadian human rights laws. Everyone young person in Canada should have the right to play.”