Oct 152007
Authors: Laurel Berch

Recently, a 15-year-old Muslim girl was forced to sit out of a soccer game after she refused to take off her head scarf, which the referee said was not part of the uniform and therefore violated game rules. This hits home for some CSU students.

The Tampa Tribune reported that Iman Khalil had been wearing a head scarf that was part of her faith while playing soccer for six years and never had a problem until this incident.

Isra’a Belgasem, a Muslim student double majoring in psychology and human development and family studies, has been in a similar situation.

“At Six Flags Elitch Gardens they asked me once to take off my scarf before going on the ride.” Belgasem said. “However, once I told them I will not and that it is for religious purposes, they allowed me to ride the ride.”

After Khalil refused to remove her scarf, she was forced to sit out of the game. Even after a United Soccer Association official told the referee, Steve Richardson, during half time that the rules say players are allowed to wear religious items as long as they don’t pose a threat of injury, Richardson stood by his decision to bench Iman.

“I am actually very surprised that this happened in a country like America where we consider ourselves the ‘melting pot’ and a ‘free country’; where we allow people to practice their religion freely,” Belgasem said. “What the referee did was wrong and an act of discrimination. Iman should have the right to play soccer in her hijab (head scarf).”

Other students were also surprised at the referee’s decision simply because of their understanding of the rules of soccer.

Freshman forestry major Mike Schranz, who has been playing soccer since elementary school, said, “If [the scarf] doesn’t cause harm, if it’s not a distraction, if it doesn’t give her an advantage, then what’s the problem?”

“People wear wrist bands and head bands, so people should be allowed to wear something that’s more meaningful,” Schranz added.

Belgasem explains what the head scarf means to Muslim girls and women.

“The hijab, or head scarf that Muslim girls and women wear is for modesty, identity and protection.The Our’an, the Muslim’s holy book, tells us to wear the hijab, but it is fully by choice,” she said.

According to abc7chicago.com, “the local council on American-Islamic Muslim relations is now considering whether to file a discrimination complaint.”

“I love how Iman stood by her religion. This shows that we wear the hijab by choice–that we decided to dress that way because we believe that women should not be judged by their outward beauty, but instead by character.”

Staff writer Laurel Berch can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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