Tuesday, March 06, 2007

When cultures clash, whose values come in first?

Last week an 11 year old Muslim girl from Quebec got ejected off a soccer pitch for wearing her hijab. The referee (also Muslim although that may be irrelevant), had asked her to remove it and when she refused, he tossed her out of the game.

Based on my household of 2, and a statistically insignificant sample size, there seems to be two schools of thought on this subject. One is to preserve the purity of the sport. Will covering your head give you an advantage over other players in the game? Where do we draw the line? If we allow a hijab, should we also allow padded headbands? If all religious symbols are allowed, then should we not also allow the Skikh ceremonial dagger on the soccer pitch? If you are playing a western invented sport, then the rules of the sport should apply first and foremost while engaged in said sport. Even Andre Agassi could not play at Wimbledon until he decided to conform to their dress code.

The second school of thought is that as long as safety is not compromised and standard rules of decency are adhered to, one should be allowed to wear whatever s(he) wants. Are we so paranoid about secularism that we should ban all religious symbols? If the girl’s religion calls on her to cover her hair, should we then not be inclusive to allow for those cultural differences in a society that claims tolerance? Failing to have headscarf written in the official FIFA rules bears little weight with me. In beach volleyball, bikinis seem to be the de-facto uniform to increase revenue from male spectators. Should a woman choose not to expose her breasts for all to see, then according to FIFA’s logic, should she not also get ejected from the beach volleyball court?

Clearly cultures have clashed here and the real losers are the kids who were denied their sport because their adults could not agree to respect one another.

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