Issue comes to a head

Federation tolerated hijabs until reasonable accommodation debate

Accommodements raisonnables et immigration

If they were sitting behind you on the bus or the metro and you overheard them talking to each other in fluent French with perfect Quebecois accents and slang expressions, you might take them for typical Montreal schoolgirls.

So if you happened to glance at them, you might be surprised to see them
wearing the hijab, the headscarf worn by some Muslim women and girls. You might think their facial features and complexions look "foreign," and if you knew their names, they might sound "foreign," too.

In other words, they look and sound like typical "children of Bill 101," the children of immigrants to Quebec who, since the adoption of that language law 30 years ago, have been required to attend French-language schools.
They or their parents might have come from Lebanon or the former French colonies of North Africa. They are favoured in Quebec's immigrant-selection process because they are francophones, or are from countries where French is widely spoken.
These girls were supposed to be reinforcements for the French-speaking community in Quebec, to replace the children that old-stock francophones were no longer having. How ironic it is, then, that now accommodation of their religious practices is widely seen as a threat to the very identity they were recruited to protect.

They are the members of the Montreal Muslim community centre's Ultimate Tae Kwon Do Club who withdrew from a Quebec regional tournament in Longueuil on the weekend rather than remove their hijabs from beneath their protective headgear.

Officials had ruled for the girls to wear their hijabs while competing would clearly violate Rule 4.2.2 of the World Tae Kwon Do Federation, the sport's governing body, which states: "Wearing any item on the head other than the head protector shall not be permitted."

This case appears to be similar to the one two months ago in which an Ottawa girls' soccer team withdrew from a tournament in Laval in protest after a referee (himself a Muslim) ruled a team member could not wear her hijab while playing. But there are significant differences between them.

In soccer, the hijab neither represents a danger nor gives the wearer an unfair competitive advantage. In its "laws of the game" of soccer, FIFA, the sport's international governing body, allows a player to wear "modern protective headgear" made of soft, lightweight, padded material.

In tae kwon do, however, a hijab might help keep perspiration out of the wearer's eyes, giving her an advantage over a competitor forbidden from wearing a headband. Or, it could cause her protective headgear to slip out of position, representing a danger to her. Both these reasons were given by officials at the Longueuil tournament to justify their decision.

But while the rule seems clear, the officials are guilty of what athletes consider to be among a referee's worst sins: applying the rules inconsistently and unpredictably.

One official accused the Muslim club of "provocation." But in the same tournament in previous years, members of the same team have been allowed to compete wearing their hijabs. Even at the international level, in the 2005 world championships, the wearing of the hijab was tolerated.

Furthermore, while the president of the Quebec tae kwon do federation, Jean Faucher, said his federation is bound by the international rule, he also said yesterday the Quebec federation might decide to allow the wearing of the hijab anyway.

So the federation is bound by the rule, but it isn't. Competing in a hijab is dangerous and unfair, or maybe it isn't.

What changed between the tournament on the weekend and the previous ones is that the "reasonable accommodation" issue flared up late last fall. That created an atmosphere that encouraged opposing coaches and athletes to protest against the hijabs, and officials to develop a sudden concern for strict enforcement of the rule against them.

And instead of promoting understanding by bringing together young people from different backgrounds, minor sports now are dividing people.

Laissez un commentaire

Aucun commentaire trouvé