Foreign Policy Blogs

Hijab and Football

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As Al Jazeera reports Iran’s football federation says it is sending a delegation to Fifa – the international football association – to urge the Geneva-based association to overturn its ban on the hijab. The ban effectively prohibits the Iranian women’s team from playing in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore this August. Fifa says the dress contradicts the game’s charter.

I am a Muslim and I do not wear a hijab, nor do I think I am required to wear one. There are other Muslim girls, who wear it and feel it is required. It is their choice and I respect it; the same way I expect them to respect my choice. But in Iran, it is not a choice. Iranian women are required by law to wear it.

By banning women who wear hijab from playing football (soccer), the only people being hurt are the Iranian women.  These Iranian women are not making a political statement by wearing hijab. They are not flaunting their religious identity. They HAVE to wear it.  If anything, I would expect Fifa to encourage these women, who are breaking stereotypes both in Iran and in the rest of the world.

Fifa should be reminded why women football was introduced in the first place:

  1. Girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image than girls and women who don’t participate.
  2. Girls who participate in sports have higher self-esteem and pride in themselves.
  3. Research suggests that physical activity is an effective tool for reducing the symptoms of stress and depression among girls.
  4. Playing sports teaches girls how to take risks and be aggressive.
  5. Sport is where girls can learn goal-setting, strategic thinking and the pursuit of excellence in performance and other achievement-oriented behaviors-critical skills necessary for success in the workplace.
  6. Playing sports teaches math skills.
  7. Sports help girls develop leadership skills.
  8. Sports teach girls teamwork.
  9. Research suggests that girls who participate in sports are more likely to experience academic success and graduate from high school than those who do not play sports.
  10. Women who are active in sports and recreational activities as girls feel greater confidence in their physical and social selves than those who were sedentary as kids.

(The List is taken from Women’s Sport Foundation)

It is unfair that Fifa will take these benefits away from Iranian women.



Sahar Zubairy

Sahar Zubairy recently graduated from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas- Austin with Masters in Global Policy Studies. She graduated from Texas A&M University with Phi Beta Kappa honors in May 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics. In Summer 2008, she was the Southwest Asia/Gulf Intern at the Henry L. Stimson Center, where she researched Iran and the Persian Gulf. She was also a member of a research team that helped develop a website investigating the possible effects of closure of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf by Iran.