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This article, written by Curtis R. Ryan, appeared on Foreign Policy on February 28,2012
FIFA, the international federation for world soccer, is poised to make a decision in a few days that will impact the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Muslim women -- whether or not to overturn the current ban on the hijab, or headscarf. Matters actually came to a head last summer, in June 2011, when the entire Iranian women's soccer team was prevented from playing in Olympic qualifying matches held in Jordan. The ouster of an entire national team, minutes before a key international match, led to a resurgent global debate on the relations between the hijab, sports, and international politics. Today, however, the winds of change seem to be blowing back in the other direction, as activists, athletes, and allies -- Muslim and non-Muslim -- appear to have met every FIFA objection and will arrive at the March 3 London meeting of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with a proposal to lift the ban and allow thousands of women an opportunity that is blocked under current rules.
When the Iranian national team was collectively forbidden from international competition, at a key moment in Olympic trials no less, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad fumed that the decision was "inhumane" and, with no apparent sense of irony, railed against FIFA as a group of dictators. For some, Iran itself was to blame. If Iran were not such a gender-regressive theocracy, legislating how women must dress, then the problem might never have occurred. But the problem is actually not about Iran. Three women on the Jordanian national team also had to leave their home field, as they too refused to remove their hijabs in order to play.
READ MORE AT Foreign Policy
*Photo Credit: Zharif Hussein
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