By Gagan Sikand
MISSISSAUGA: Despite condemnation from Canadians across Canada and its disapproval by politicians from various parties – now a ban by the Canadian Soccer Association, the Quebec Soccer Federation is still adamant on its ban on turbans on soccer pitches.
This stance is in direct opposition to a non-binding directive from the Canadian Soccer Association, that tells provincial associations to allow turbans by extending an existing rule that allows hijabs for Muslim girls.
Immediately, two cases come to mind. The first involved a Sikh boy named Gurbaj Singh Multani who was not allowed to wear his religious dagger, or kirpan, to school. It entered the legal realm and worked its way up to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The order of the Quebec school authority was struck down on freedom of religion grounds, as the order violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The second involves Pardeep Nagra who was not allowed to box as his beard posed a safety risk, I suppose more so than the punches being thrown. Once again, in the legal realm the rule was declared discriminatory by the courts as an infringement of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
These are just two cases that came to mind, but the Sikh community has won many legal battles allowing them to adhere to their religion while performing a job or participating in social events. All around the world, Sikhs are seen in the police force, military, the Queen’s guard in England and the RCMP here in Canada.
One would think that there must be something truly problematic in the case of the Quebec Soccer Federation. After all, they are the stubborn black sheep defending what exactly? Again we see this in the guise of safety. The federation claims that it is concerned about the players’ safety and that this has nothing to do with racism and dismissed any such claims. However, when asked about the injuries caused by turbans and the safety concerns surrounding it, the director of the federation, Brigitte Frot, was quoted by La Presse as saying. “We don’t know if there have been accidents due to wearing the turban, “We don’t know if it’s dangerous, and that’s why we’re banning it.”
Thus, we do see something that is truly problematic in this case of the Quebec Soccer Federation’s ban on the turban, but it is with the federation’s ideology and blatant intolerance of Canadian values, not possible injuries incurred by a soft turban.
These federations and associations have a social responsibility and reflect our social values.
The Sikh community is simply saying that they are Canadians and like every other Canadian, want to live, volunteer, work and play as any other Canadian would.
It should be mentioned though, that the views endorsed by the federation are not necessarily representative of Quebec residents. However, the refusal to change the turban rule is appalling and can only lead to the assumption that the Quebec
Soccer Federation wants to send a message to the Sikh community. Unfortunately, the message is being sent to young children who use the medium of a sport like soccer to stay out of trouble and develop all of the desired social skills, including working together towards a common goal.
(Gagan Sikand is based in Mississauga)