Iranian Olympic Soccer Team Disqualified Over Wearing of Islamic Headscarf

I knew this day would come. I have something upon which I agree with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The Iranians are justifiably upset over the disqualification of their women’s soccer team in the 2012 London Olympics. The reason is the inclusion of an Islamic headscarf in their uniform by the international soccer association, FIFA.

I would understand if the fuss was over the mandatory requirement of a head covering for players who do not want to wear the headscarf. However, the FIFA is saying that it is due to safety. I find that claim a bit hard to accept and the rule effectively bars many Muslim women from competing. In this case, the team lost to Jordan without ever playing.

Iranian women athletes are already effectively barred from swimming and gymnastics due to their need to cover their bodies. Most such sports, however, do not have a specific bar on headscarves or body coverings. In my view, if an Iranian woman wants to try to win in a swimming burkini, so be it.

This is a relatively new rule from FIFA, announced in April 2010. Notably, it bans not just headscarves but other religious items.

The Iranian headscarves shown in the picture with the article below are specially made and remind me of the headgear worn by the Fabulous Face leadership in “In Like Flint.”

Source: Washington Post

Jonathan Turley

15 thoughts on “Iranian Olympic Soccer Team Disqualified Over Wearing of Islamic Headscarf”

  1. From what I understand the problem is not the head covering, but the fact that it wraps around the neck. FIFA was prepared to allow headscarves that didn’t cover the neck, but Iran’s design is more concealing and wraps around the neck. The concern is presumably that someone could suffer damage to their windpipe if the back of the neck wrap was yanked violently (as could happen if an opposing player was attempting a sliding tackle past a player on the ground and her cleats caught on the wrapping).

  2. the only problem with mike’s idea is anyone taking pictures of the chinese gymnasts could be arrested for child pornography.

  3. Mike Appleton: ” This is a situation that calls for a creative compromise. I propose the following: 1. We return to the Greek olympic practice of requiring all athletes to compete in the nude.”

    I mght become a fan of he Olympics if your suggestion is taken. 🙂 If they take a ‘roots’ based approach seriously (from what I’ve read) Olympic wrestling is gonna’ get real interesting.

  4. mahtso,

    Now, you’re just being sane and reasonable …

    I’m still sticking with Mike.

  5. All of this has happened before…

    In 2010, Iran and FIFA compromised on the head coverings by having their female team wear caps for the Youth Olympics. I have not seen any media reporting if the same compromise is acceptable this time, which aside from Iran and FIFA egos, seems reasonable. I have a feelings that this really is turning into a battle of wills and neither side is going to back down.

    The 2007 rule that bans the head coverings specifies “The player’s equipment must not carry any political, religious or personal statements.”. The argument can be made that the rule seems to target Islamic teams, which would not be a surprise, but because of the wording, FIFA can deny the rule is unfair to Iran since it bans everyone’s religious, political, or personal statements.

    Originally I thought FIFA was right to not back down on the issue, but after a quick Google, it seems the rule is almost exclusively exercised against religious expressions. I think that FIFA is fighting the wrong fight on this. The only people that are going to suffer are the players. Religion is a powerful thing, and I’m a huge fan of limiting its control over society, but to disqualify a team over something so trivial as a glorified hat seems petty at best, and hateful at worst.

    I have no delusions that allowing Iran to field a team in a qualifier will change the lives of these women, but to prevent them from playing because their culture and government require/force them to dress a certain way is only adding to an injury. FIFA should not punish them for being born in Iran, or being Muslim. If anything, allowing them to play breaks down the barrier between Iran and the West just that small bit. Putting a human face on the people of Iran, separate from their government, can only be a good thing.

  6. It is not only head scarves and other religious items that are banned, but also neck warmers. I haven’t a clue as to whether the scarves and neck warmers are a safety risk, but I don’t see how one can properly evaluate this matter without the knowledge that the neck warmers are also banned.

  7. This is gonna sound bad but can’t they have a “Special Olympics” just for the faith based women…..

  8. Mike A has not only formulated a practical solution, but one that will surely boost the ratings.

  9. If FIFA had sited specific safety concerns like the one Nal mentioned they might have a leg to kick with. Having seen the photos of the players there is no visibility concern and I can imagine that adjustments can be made to the materials to allow for heat exchange. This is a ‘not so subtle’ shot at islam.

  10. This is a situation that calls for a creative compromise. I propose the following:

    1. We return to the Greek olympic practice of requiring all athletes to compete in the nude.

    2. Muslim women athletes will nevertheless be permitted to wear head scarves.

    This solution honors both religious diversity and olympic traditions.

  11. During exercise, the body regulates its temperature via heat loss through the scalp. The headscarves prevent this regulation putting the players in increased danger of heat stroke. However, the FIFA rules don’t ban head coverings for safety reasons but for religious reasons.

  12. Blatantly discriminatory. As one of the bloggers on the Washing ton Post story said, “I think the problem is that the headscarves do not say “Adidas”.

  13. This is perfect – FIFA can show that its not just the Iranian leadership that will capriciously make decisions at random and not really consider what they are actually saying. Stupid is as stupid does.

Comments are closed.