OTTAWA, Canada—The World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association asking it reverse its decision to enforce a ban on the turban and other religious headgear.
It has been reported that 17 year old Aneel Samra and other Sikh players in the LaSalle Minor Soccer Association have been told that they will not be permitted to play because they wear religiously mandated turbans. Association president Sofio Pagliaro has said the ban came due to a decision by the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association to enforce a prohibition on religious headgear.
Last year it was reported that Sarah Benkirane, a referee in the Lac St. Louis Regional Soccer Association, was told that she could not wear her hijab on the soccer field.
“This decision excludes young Sikhs from playing soccer with their peers and creates an atmosphere of unfairness and intolerance. Turbans are worn and accepted in soccer leagues across Canada and it is not an issue” said Mukhbir Singh, WSO’s Quebec Vice President.
No other Canadian soccer league excludes players who wear articles of faith.
In a letter sent by WSO to the Soccer Federation it was stressed that Canadian human rights laws protecting freedom of religion take precedence over FIFA rules. Making an exception for religious headgear would not be without precedent. It was pointed out that The LaSalle Minor Soccer Association 2011 Regulations clearly state in Rule 6.1 that exceptions to the FIFA rules are to be made. The exceptions provided in Rule 6 ensure fairness and inclusion for all players. An example of such an exception to FIFA rules is the requirement that all players receive equal playing time.
There have been no reports of any injuries caused by religious headgear on the pitch and no clear reason has been provided as to why an accommodation cannot be provided.
WSO President Prem Singh Vinning said, “the accommodation of religious headgear is straightforward. It doesn’t take away from the game and it doesn’t pose any hardship. Soccer is an international sport which builds bridges. Telling Sikh children they can’t play goes against the spirit of sportsmanship and is clear a violation of human rights law.”
The World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) is a non-profit organization with a mandate to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs as well as to promote and advocate for the protection of human rights for all individuals, irrespective of race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and social and economic status.