A case for the Quebec soccer turban ban - Macleans.ca

A case for the Quebec soccer turban ban

Paul Wells asked for a good argument from a supporter of the ban. Here’s what he found.


(I thought the debate over the Quebec Soccer Federation’s ban on turbans in league play was lacking some debate. So I put out an open call on Twitter for anyone who agrees with the ban to tell me why. The only person who came forward with anything longer than a tweet (those were generally variations on “It’s FIFA rules, what’s your problem”) was Simon Delorme, a master’s student at Université de Montréal. We asked the Quebec Soccer Federation directly; their answer was “absolutely not.” Here’s a translation of Delorme’s blog post. It took some guts for him to make this argument in Maclean’s; I hope the comment-board debate will be respectful of different opinions. I suspect this isn’t the last word on this debate. I’ll have some thoughts of my own in the morning. – PW)

The current debate in Quebec over turbans on soccer fields is, as it is often the case, misguided. It was immediately characterized as yet another case of religious accommodation, either seen as legitimate or illegitimate, depending on what side of the fence one stands. And again, both sides instantly started to shout at each other, with accusations of either intolerance or injustice flying all over the place. We are apparently witnessing yet another example of either the tyranny of the majority or the tyranny of the minority, and no middle ground seems within reach.

To break the stalemate, it’s imperative to reframe this debate in a more manageable and more palatable fashion. In doing so, we realize the Quebec Soccer Federation did the right thing — for the wrong reason. Everyone will easily admit the safety risks caused by turbans on soccer fields are, if anything, negligible. At the very least, we do not know of any case or data saying otherwise. And anyone playing any sport knows very well they are at risk of injury, at any given moment, when they are on the field. Even when all precautions are taken. If anyone wants to create a “zero-risk” environment in sports, they would better watch soccer on TV than play it. And be careful with the pretzels.

The question here isn’t security. It’s universality. To play a sport in an official manner, under the auspices of any governing body (as opposed to doing it with your buddies in the back alley), also means abiding by the rules, including the regulations about the uniform. When it comes to soccer, this means the shoes have to respect some criteria. Players must wear shorts and a jersey with sleeves, matching the team’s colours. Jewelry is forbidden. Can one wear flip-flops, tennis shoes or cowboy boots? No. Can one wear a tank top, jeans, or play shirts and skins? No. Can one wear a turban, a baseball cap or ski goggles? No. Are these rules, common to all soccer federations in the world through FIFA, there to put constraints on the players’ freedoms of religion or expression? No. They are there to ensure everyone’s safety, sure, but also to ensure the uniformity and universality of the game, and also the sense of belonging to one’s team. This is important.

Important because, for 90 minutes or so, everyone is dressed the same. Everyone is part of the team. Everyone is working together. Black, white or any other skin color. Francophone, Anglophone or allophone. Sikh, Muslim or atheist. Boy or girl (in coed leagues). Rich or poor. These things do not matter anymore. Everyone is there to play. To win, or at least to participate and have fun. Is it so unreasonable to uphold the values of the sport first, for an hour and a half? And yes, just as there is such a thing as religious values, there is also such a thing as sports values. Values like equality, effort, commitment, fairness, camaraderie, fun and health. And universality. Aren’t these great values to convey to our children, once in a while, while playing at the park? Aren’t these values worth protecting and expressing, too?

This universality guarantees that, whether in Marseilles or Bamako, Mumbai or Brossard, anyone can join in, anyone can play, precisely because the very same rules apply to everyone in the world. Sport, practiced in this manner, is an extremely powerful tool we can use to cut through differences and divisions. The Olympic Games are another example. Ancient or modern, the Games promote peace, tolerance and understanding through the universality of sports. This is a very valuable principle, certainly as valuable as the protection of an individual’s right to express their religious beliefs. And it is without a doubt the rationale behind FIFA’s rules and regulations, the same rules and regulations enforced by the Quebec Soccer Federation, in the same spirit of universality. There is also something to be said about respect for the game, the uniform and one’s teammates. Striking the right balance between rights and responsibilities is another valuable lesson to be learned here.

Religious accommodations, when they are deemed reasonable within the frame of a democratic and secular state, have their place in a liberal society like ours, in accordance with the rule of law. It should also be the case for sports accommodations. Doing so 90 minutes at a time, as far as I am concerned, passes the litmus test for a reasonable accommodation. And everyone wins.


A case for the Quebec soccer turban ban

  1. Applause for taking a controversial stance. Respectfully, I would argue that the ‘everyone dresses the same’ argument doesn’t hold true as there are variations allowed. For example, jewelry in the form of earrings and light chains are often allowed. Alexei Lalas shows that hair, both on the head and facial, can be worn in different ways. Swimmers wear different cuts of suits, basketball players’ shorts are often of slightly different lengths according to personal preference.

    I agree that values like equality, effort, commitment are valuable and necessary, but I don’t see how wearing a turban infringes on those.

      • That rule is ambiguous, and FIFA players are routinely allowed to wear jewellery.

      • My mistake, I thought that Cristiano Renaldo wore stud earrings when playing.

        But I think my point still stands…. We can replace stud earrings with headbands to hold your hair back or tattoos.

        • Cristiano Ronaldo has worn stud earrings when playing, you were correct.

      • Is the patka dangerous?

    • I think I’ve noticed sleeve length can vary in league games as well, to say nothing of goal tender outfits. In fact, I think I once saw David Beckham sub in and play most of a final third in a white Real Madrid three-piece Armani suit.

  2. He may be heartfelt and truly believe what he’s saying, but he’s unequivocally wrong. Clear legal rules allowing for freedom of religion beat abstract “eye-of-the-beholder” concepts like “uniformity and universality”. The rule does the EXACT OPPOSITE of allowing everyone to play on an even footing, it prevents people whose religious dictates are a little different from you or I from playing AT ALL.

    I appreciate that this young fellow tried, but merely trying doesn’t guarantee success. So far nobody has made a reasonable argument justifying the ban.

    • My understanding is that he’s wrong on a more fundamental level, that being that there is no rule that actually prohibits turbans. What’s more, apparently multiple national bodies under FIFA currently allow turbans.

      I expect this debate to go the way of the hijab debate in soccer. Once again QSF will be the last holdout in Canada, and they’ll holdout until FIFA itself is forced to come out and publicly state that turbans are fine.

  3. “Can one wear flip-flops, tennis shoes or cowboy boots? No. Can one wear a tank top, jeans, or play shirts and skins? No. Can one wear a turban, a baseball cap or ski goggles? No.”


  4. “…Jewelry is forbidden. Can one wear flip-flops, tennis shoes or cowboy boots? No. Can one wear a tank top, jeans, or play shirts and skins?…”
    This is all true, but giving up any of these doesn’t involve any real sacrifice of one’s moral values or principles, whereas wearing the patka for a Sikh is a serious requirement.

    “This universality guarantees that, whether in Marseilles or Bamako, Mumbai or Brossard, anyone can join in, anyone can play, precisely because the very same rules apply to everyone in the world….”
    How exactly is this universal, when it is effectively barring an entire nation from “joining in”?! And yes, it is good when the same rules apply to everyone, but not when the rules are arbitrary and baseless. This is as arbitrary as requiring all players to shave their heads, so they could all abide to the same “rules”, and this should apparently unite them all.

  5. I think it is a reasonable argument, but I have three basic problems with it:

    1) The argument would carry more weight if there weren’t a huge crucifix in the National Assembly.

    2) Pluralism is another important value we should be teaching children.

    3) A turban isn’t a pair of goggles or a baseball cap. It’s a deeply held religious symbol.

    • 1) Yes, because the crucifix in the Assemblée Nationale has everything to do with soccer… (it should be taken off but that argument has nothing to do with the present case).
      2) Pluralism about inherent differences yes (race, sexual orientation, handicaps, physical traits, etc). A religious item can be taken off temporarily (i.e. it’s a choice). Moreover, children don’t have deep religious beliefs, their parents do.
      3) So deeply held that you can’t remove it for 90 minutes? Who’s intolerant now. By your definition Sikhs who stop wearing the turban aren’t Sikh anymore, which if anything is pretty intolerant in my opinion. You’re effectively reducing them to some kind of frozen archetype. Temporary limitations are reasonable, if they apply equally to everyone (i.e. they can permit it for all I care, as long as it’s permitted to everyone (i.e. non turban head dress)). But rules are rules.

      In any case, I won’t defend the QSA’s actions because I believe they handled it badly (to say the least). However, the ROC’S reaction has been highly emotional and highly aggressive. You seriously couldn’t have done a better job at alienating the francophones. What about reaching to the franco media? What about starting a dialogue? No, it’s basically “we’ve already decided your all racists and were going to make you stop in any way we can”. Well, you only made it worst, for everyone. Great job.

      • “3) So deeply held that you can’t remove it for 90 minutes? Who’s intolerant now. By your definition Sikhs who stop wearing the turban aren’t Sikh anymore, which if anything is pretty intolerant in my opinion. You’re effectively reducing them to some kind of frozen archetype. Temporary limitations are reasonable, if they apply equally to everyone (i.e. they can permit it for all I care, as long as it’s permitted to everyone (i.e. non turban head dress)). But rules are rules.”

        Its not about deeply held belief but most of the sikhs that tie a turban have long hair. To a practicing Sikh, it’s equivalent to being naked having their hair in open. I think a lot of people would have a problem being naked in public for 90 minutes.

        • For adults maybe, but not for children. Look, if the Sikh community wants to open a dialogue with the francophones in Quebec, by all means. But (and correct me if I’m wrong), we only hear from them 1) in english in the english media 2) through formal complaints. Reaching out in french would help their image and maybe bring some empathy.

          • Every time I have been to a sikh temple I have found most of the Quebec born Sikh kids speaking French. In fact I have found a lot of them better at French as compared to English.
            The only reason I think why they are more in English media is because English media atleast cares about their opinion.

            You can find a lot of Sikh representatives in political parties across all the provinces. But lay alone Sikhs, the amount of minorities representation in Quebec is minimal.

          • If only the Jews had spoken German….

          • very clever matt… But yes .. it certainly feels like an attempt at being a bit facist by the PQ .. I’m sure some Quebecers may have some fears of an independant Quebecistan with their own Taliban .. errmm .. PQ running the place and forcing others to conform to them. The irony of my statement is that the Taliban wear turbans as well .. hmmm

          • Yup. I think your posts are the exception that proves the rule.

      • Who is alienating francophones? I’ve seen only arguments against racism and intolerance. It matters not if the intolerant speak English or French.

  6. Paul is aware that FIFA has deferred to the national associations on this issue and that the CSA has endorsed the wearing of turbans on the field, right? If his concern is with the “universality” of the sport, it’s not a concern shared by the keepers of the sport at its highest levels.

    • Hell, keepers seem to dress any way they want. HAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  7. With all due respect this argument is flawed. It boils down to if it is agreed upon by the “powers that be” then we must accept it. Again, I respect your opinion, but in today’s society it is unfair and, some might argue, intolerant to compare turbans to ski goggles. Ultimately, the decision to not allow turban wearing players is to deny Sikhs the right to play soccer in Quebec. One could easily pick a cultural tradition from any culture and use it as an excuse to deny those persons a right to participate but that is not what Canadians should be supporting—we should be supporting inclusiveness.

  8. Not going into details I would like to say a few points on why turbans are so important to Sikhs.

    To a Sikh, a turban is more than just a religious symbol. In fact a turban didn’t originate as a religious symbol but it has from way old times been a symbol of self respect in most of Indian Subcontinent (for all religions and cultures) from a long time. Around 16-17th century when India was being ruled by an Islamic tyrant, he made it forbidden for any non muslim to wear a turban until they converted. That’s when turban became a part of Sikh code, not because it was religious but because they had a right and freedom to wear their turban and self respect. A lot of Sikhs were brutally tortured during that time but they didn’t lose their faith.

    Now you see why it’s so important for them to wear a turban? Their ancestors have given their life to protect this and this culture.

    Every time a Sikh wakes up and ties a turban, he knows that day he is going to be judged for all the wrong reasons and people are going to criticize and hate him but he still does it because it’s his right. Right to freedom to wear his culture and self respect.

    • I enjoy watching the Sikh shows on Vision TV on Saturdays (I don’t understand what they’re saying but I love the music!). However, I have always wondered, why is it that some people on the show wear turbans, and others don’t? I haven’t made a formal count, but I would say it’s close to 50/50 turban wearers/non-turban wearers. My question is, if the turban is so important to Sikh culture and history, why do only half (or so) wear them on television programs whose main purpose is to promote awareness and pride for their culture? Is it because not all people on these programs are Sikh? Or does it, at the end of the day, really just come down to personal preference?

      Anyway, I am not trying to make light of the matter, and I know it’s a bit off topic, but this is something I’ve always been curious about.

      • Why do some Jews wear a kippah and some don’t? Why do some Catholics have a fish fry on Friday while others eat whatever they want?

        Within most faiths you’ll find followers along a broad continuum of religious practice and within most faiths you’ll find groups who believe this or that group isn’t observant enough.

        Even among sikhs that wear the turban there are different levels of observance. Some trim their beards while others would find cutting any hair on their body – over a life time – abhorrent.

        Wearing a hair covering is widely but certainly not universally practised. That some Sikhs do not cover their head should not ever be used as an argument to force those who do observe the practice, over a lifetime, to follow suit.

        When it comes to soccer a head covering harms no one and does nothing to diminish the game.

      • I’m glad to hear that you enjoy the programmes. To answer your question. Why some Sikhs observe the turban or dastaar and why others do not is because every aspect of leading a religious life in the Sikh faith, just as in any faith, comes down to personal choice. Perhaps a better way to describe it is that in the Sikh faith we recognize that everyone is on their own journey, and each step can only be taken when you are personally ready for it. I hope that makes things a little clearer. Feel free to ask any other question.

        • so how do you explain the choice of wearing a turban to a little boy? do you really think any child adopts this behavior out of commitment to his own spiritual journey? seems a lot more likely that they just do so because they think it will please the adults (and their parents specifically).

          • I think as parents in any faith we make decisions regarding our children’s early participation in faith for them and based on our own level of practice. However, as they grow older and are able to ask questions and understand the principles behind practices (please refer to my response to Supreet’s explanation of the turban or dustaar), they are given a choice if they would like to continue with those practices or not. I cannot deny that in any community or faith you have parents that insist that certain practices be continued. Increasingly, however, the choice of the child has more weight today.

            I would also like to correct the perception that it is only boys or men that wear the dustaar in the Sikh faith. While I understand that men remain the most visible adherents to this practice, and that, culturally, is it usually men that do wear the dustaar, the practice of covering one’s head within the Sikh faith is gender neutral so both men and women are able to do so. Women do have additional options including a long scarf or bandana (rumaal) for such purposes however.

          • I appreciate your taking the time to respond, but you haven’t really answered my questions at all. as they grow older they are given a choice, fine. but my concerns are with the period preceeding that. do you really think any child adopts the wearing of religious symbolism out of commitment to his/her own spiritual journey?

          • I don’t mind providing some clarification at all. While I’m uncomfortable responding on behalf of all Sikh children because I think we all have our own experiences, I will attempt to do so, however largely based on my own lived experience. I was a Sikh child, a young girl at that, that chose very consciously to wear a dustaar for my own journey – I wanted to understand my faith more. I personally know many children today who are choosing to wear some form of the dustaar themselves for their own practice, because they’ve come to understand the principles behind that practice. The ages vary, the depth of understanding varies, the level of commitment varies as does the duration of that commitment. For some it becomes a lifelong aspect of who they are, for others they tried it and realized it’s not for them. I’ve seen variations of all these experiences among Sikhs (women and men, girls and boys) whom I’ve grown up with or am now seeing and meeting in the community.

            I hope this helps more than my last reply, however please let me know if it doesn’t.

          • I can see you are sincere and reaching out in good faith, but I do doubt your capacity to look at the big picture (and particularly the part you occupy) with critical thinking. I’m sorry that this comes off so judgemental, I just don’t believe children have the capacity to embark on any spiritual journey, nor that they really choose their paths with anything resembling knowledge and understanding of the path they take, nor of the alternatives. And I don’t say this in reference to your religion specifically, but to every religion – and some others which I won’t discuss here have practices affecting children which I would disapprove of much more virulently.

            you say that as a young girl you wanted to understand your faith more. of course, children want to understand things, they are curious. they will invariably ask about everything, even things they are not ready for at all. sexuality would be the easiest and clearest example. most children will start wondering about it way before they are anywhere near ready to explore it. they don’t understand, and so they want to understand. adults have to know that such things are not for children, and act accordingly – a child’s desire to understand something is not in itself an indication of being ready for it.

          • How much choice does a young kid has when parents cannot leave the child home alone, and take him/her to church? Can a child say, that he/she does not want to go, and stay home? Don’t you think this is a step towards conditioning a child’s mind towards what parents believe in? I think children can be influenced upto certain point (initial few years), but when given a balanced and right environment, a grown up child can always make a choice of what is good for him or not. Same happens for all the people, and similarly, in Sikh homes too, keep hair or not, tie turban or not.

          • I’m sorry for the late response. I meant to post this before:

            In the Sikh Faith, there is a strong belief that age is not indicative of wisdom. There is no cookie cutter method of raising children, or teaching them certain values and principles at certain ages. Each child has a unique journey. And as elders our job is to encourage that journey and to meet the child at the level they are at, rather than the level society feels they should be at. This way those children that need more time are given that time and those that are farther along are not held back. And they learn to think critically for themselves. We try to encourage their questions rather than hinder their curiosity.

            While I may not understand the “big picture” you are looking at nor share your belief that children cannot have any spiritual inclination or understanding. I do share your concern for severe religious practices that negatively affect children. I would however add that it is not the practices that are usually negative (in most instances) but the individuals applying the practices and their perception or interpretation of those practices that is severe. I do not feel though that such occurrences mean we should not introduce our children to faith concepts or practices.

            Though, this is why so many of us within all faiths try to support an individual’s (whether child, adolescent or adult) right to choose their level of religious involvement/practice.

      • Guy: I’m a turban wearing Sikh .. always have been. My parents asked me many times growing up if I wish to not do so anymore but I happily refused. It was my choice and they will always love me for it. I chose to always stick with it as its a very important part of our faith. Others have not and that’s fine as well. Probably a larger percentage of Sikhs in Canada don’t wear turbans as its their personal choice. Its similar with our friends in the Jewish community. There are some who tend to wear a kappa .. others have a very traditional look and many don’t. It can be said of many communities. That doesn’t mean if some don’t adhere to it, its suddenly ok to use their actions against those who do. That’s what makes this such a beautiful country as it truly protects the rights of everyone in these circumstances.

        I may also point out, that Sikhs are very ‘visible’ as we do stand out. So we do tend to get a brunt of intolerant attitudes and always have. But we are tough and still try to get through these situations with dignity and honour and over time we have won over the intolerance. One of our guru’s actually died to protect the rights of those from another faith (if you’re interested, wikipedia the 9th Guru for Sikhs – Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji).

        This incident against Sikh kids really has done more to reveal the character and true intentions of the PQ and those people in QC in charge of such bureaucratic positions. Many ‘minorities’ in QC have always felt the intolerance towards them (whether its language or in some other form), but this incident is so blatant and shows such a mean streak, its clear what the future will hold with these types of people in charge. I hope it serves as a real warning to all Quebecers of what the future can hold.

        On the other hand, its has also shown how strongly important tolerance and justice is to the rest of the Canada. It may seem drastic to some, but the CSA’S message is very loud and clear. They have made their stand now and for the future – they will not stand for this BS! I am also so proud of the response from the governing party (federally) and the opposition. Even the liberal leader in QC has questioned the QSA’s behaviour. I understand they were trying to not get too involved initially as they are well aware of the underhanded nature of the PQ (and making this into another sovereign debate), but their hand was forced as the QSA’S are behaving like a bunch of immature bullies.

        As a Sikh, I’m disappointed that my younger brothers as facing this, but I’m also fine with taking on another injustice as a community and hopefully making it right so others don’t get faced with this. Accept others for their differences, and they will surprise you with how much we are all the same!!

        Vive le Canada!!!

    • So… what you are saying is that the turban is not a religious practice but a statement? Then wearing it is not a matter of freedom of religion under the Charter, just a statement against Islamic tyrants? There are few Islamic tyrants on soccer fields as far as I know, so it is probably not required to wear one in protest?

      • Ollie77, Sikhism is not a branch of Islam. What’s your point, other than ignorance?

        • I’m quite aware that Sikhism is not a branch of Islam, you misread my point. The original poster says the turban is not fundamentally a religious display, but merely a statement by the Sikhs’ forebears against a tyrannical islamic ruler. He is, in essence, saying the turban is not a religious symbol at all (which undermines his case for the right to wear it,in my opinion). Since there are no islamic tyrants to protest against by wearing a turban on soccer pitches, perhaps theprotest is unncesseary, and not even covered by Charter provisions on freedom ofreligion if it is not — as the commenter claims — a religious obligation, but instead a historic habit, as he seems to suggest; “a turban didn’t originate as a religious symbol but it has from way old times been a symbol of self respect”

          • There’s s new tyrant in town…wanna know who? Go look in the mirror.

          • Pointing out that an ill-conceived argument (i.e. that the turban is not a religious symbol) purportedly in favour of the turban weakens the case for its tolerance (under freedom of religion Charter rights) makes one a tyrant now? Viva la free speech, eh?

    • I would add to Supreet’s explanation with the fact that a great many aspects of the Sikh faith have a social justice or social activism element to them in addition to being of spiritual or religious significance. It has to do with the historical context in which the Sikh faith emerged and developed.

      With the historical reference provided above the turban or dastaar was used to demonstrate some individual’s superiority in society. In order to demonstrate that all human beings are equal and should be treated as such, Sikh Gurus wore turbans in direct defiance and asked their disciples to do so as well.

      Additionally, a dastaar’s significance and purpose as an article of faith does not end there (though I won’t get into it all here), covering one’s head in many faiths is a sign of humility and constant meditation on God’s name, in the Sikh faith it is the same. Lastly, a Sikh who chooses to wear a dastaar is meant to be very visible. As a Sikh you are meant to stand out and be identifiable, so that those in need of help can find you in a crowd no matter where you are (there’s a long story behind this but this is the jist of it). You are meant to be recognised as a Sikh and therefore as someone who stands against injustice and inequality, and can always be called upon to help when help is needed.

      While I’m at it I would like to correct one thing – the imagery in the last part of Supreet’s explanation refers specifically to “male” sikhs and turbans. While it is more common, culturally, for a man to wear a dastaar, the practice is actually gender neutral, as are all elements of the Sikh faith. So both men and women are able to wear dastaars or cover their heads for religious purposes.

  9. Back in April, the QSF refused to comply with the CSA on turbans. Marois said nothing about turbans when the issue came up last week. She brought it up today to spin it as an attack on Quebec by Canada – Canada’s meddling is more justification for the PQ’s independence cause. It’s not about turbans, it’s not about soccer, it’s about the PQ agenda.

    • She brought it up because of the CSA ban which my well mean that Quebec kids will not be able to compete outside of their province, or have kids from other provinces come in as visiting teams.

    • “She brought it up today”

      she didn’t “bring it up”. it was already up. it’s been up for more than a week (during which time she said nothing at all, even though it could easily have been milked for greater popular support, considering that around 80% of quebecers disapprove of religious symbolism in sporting events), and yesterday the CSA applied a decision that has major consequences on soccer activities in Québec. journalists surrounded Marois. she answered the question.

      • Brainwashing really works.

  10. This guy is, effectively, saying Sikhs shouldn’t play soccer. He does realize what he’s saying, doesn’t he? I mean 300, 400 or 500 years of history, religious attachment and the parents desire to maintain some semblance of their culture in a “foreign” country are going to be thrown out the window?

    He speaks of universality. What about the principal that we should be accepting of differences provided those differences do not impede on the rights of others? I guess that isn’t universal enough. Who am I kidding? Tribalism, as evidenced by the turban and the counter reaction, are alive and well.

  11. Shouldn’t most of the “respect for the rules” and “universality of the game” arguments have gone out the window when stories started to appear about the U.S., U.K. and Italy apparently all allowing turbans on the pitch?

    I don’t think all of the “we’re following the standards of FIFA” / “these are the rules of soccer” arguments will lead anywhere in the end except to FIFA coming out and publicly stating “No you aren’t, and no they aren’t”.

    • Actually .. just to support you’re statement .. I’m a turban wearing Sikh who played soccer in a league in the 90’s .. right here in Ontario .. I have cousins who did the same in the US and the UK. I’ve played baseball too and always used a slightly larger helmet (that didn’t bother anyone either). If I was ever good enough to be a more serious player, I would have gladly paid for a custom helmet. I have cousins who played competitive hockey as well.

      Its pretty apparent the arguments being used to defend the QSA’s actions are feeble at best and quite dishonest. There is no safety concern, there is no real concern for ‘universal acceptance’ .. its soccer for god sakes!!! They are bullying young Sikh kids as they think their can. Whether you blame it on politics, racism or whatever you want, its wrong, not justifiable, mean, indefensible, and most likely illegal under the charter which protects everyone including the same Quebecers who seem to share the attitude of the QSA’s board.

      I really hope they learn their lesson and when they implement such tactics most reasonable people stand up and fight against it. These tactics have led to so much injustice in history and since many Quebecers have complained about being marginalized in the past, their attitudes and actions against the few who are different should make them wonder what they are really doing. Being in positions of power and influence does not mean you start suppressing those who are different for such petty reasons. Its 2013!

  12. Don’t see the problem. If there’s no safety issue – and there isn’t; if wearing a turban doesn’t convey some added ability to head the ball – cant imagine it does, no problem.
    As I understand it some Sikhs would, if forced to play without a turban, have waist length hair( lucky buggers) what then? Cut it? Hair nets? Would we make an Aboriginal person wear some kind of braid restrainer? Although a line could quite reasonably be drawn at a full headress , for obvious reasons. This argument is ridiculous.
    Sorry! There’s lots to admire about Quebec and its contribution to Canada overall, but this isn’t one of its better days.

  13. Strange argument coming from a province that claimed it needed special status within the Constitituion, or to be deemed a distinct society, and that this special status or distinctness would have no impact on equality rights.

    i.e. one could be equal and distinct. i.e. equal doesn’t always mean treating people the same i.e. equal, substantive equality, means sometimes letting people be different.

    The argument seems to be that only the Quebec nation is allowed to be equal and different. Everyone else must be equal and the same.

  14. What I don’t understand is why people are complaining to Québec’s Soccer League and not challenging FIFA itself for having that law there. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that what happened when they had the problem with the women’s head dress? They challenged FIFA directly? The law was changed, all women can now wear head dresses and play soccer. End of story. So why doesn’t the community of Soccer Afficionados once again put pressure om FIFA itself? Like the last time. It worked then, why not now?

    • “Like the last time. It worked then, why not now?”

      that would be wasting a good opportunity to make people angry at Québec.

      • I don’t see how the majority of the province oppressing the minority are the victims when the world points at the oppression and says “hey! oppression!”

        • you’re right, you don’t see.

      • I’m just going to sit here and pretend you’re really good at sarcasm …

        • : )

    • It could simply be that national associations already allow turbans under FIFA’s current rules, and it seems silly to have to go to FIFA over something that should be so obvious (both from a “comply with the instructions of your national body” sense, and an “if it’s not a problem in the U.S. or U.K, why would it be a problem in Quebec” sense).

      The Director of Officiating for U.S. Soccer was telling referees that turbans were allowed under rule 4 as far back as 1997 for Pete’s sake.

      I would imagine that many people are simply annoyed that Quebec is going to make this go all the way to the top of FIFA (again) before they relent.

      • True. I just wish it didn’t have to go this way because people who are Québecois(e) who do not live in Québec feel the repercussions. It sucks.

    • FIFA doesn’t have the rule the QSF says it does.

      • Yep. I read it in both languages because there was a part in the English version that I thought may be construed as meaning a ban on turbans as well as other headgear, but they did a pretty good job translating everything clearly. However – and I’m putting this question to people who do wear turbans – is the knot (I’m not sure what it’s called) under the turban soft? I know it sounds redundant but I’m trying to clearly understand. Thank you.

  15. Thanks for upping the quality of debate. Cheers.

  16. Does the QSF have a ban on necklaces with crosses on them, or other forms of Christian iconography? If so, then I don’t mind the turban ban so much.

    • jewelry of any kind is already “strictly forbidden” by FIFA rules.

      • That’s good to know. Playing with a necklace or an earring would be dangerous.

  17. So if the issue is not related to safety but uniformity and belonging to a team/looking like your teammates, would the author agree that it would be alright if an entire team wore turbans?

    • A team from Brossard QC has done this in support of Sikh players. Pic was in Mtl Gazette yesterday along with a very interesting article worth reading.

  18. Solid argument, well done.

  19. This universality guarantees that, whether in Marseilles or Bamako, Mumbai or Brossard, anyone can join in…

    Well, certainly Brossard anyway. An entire under-14 team in Brossard donned turbans on the pitch the other day in protest against the QSF’s actions, and in solidarity with young Sikh players in Quebec who’ve been forced to leave their teams after playing with them for all this time.

    The referee for the game, being a rational human being capable of exercising judgement and common sense, LET THEM PLAY.

    • That’s a heartening story, good for them.

      Xenophobic francophones should be embarrassed by their behaviour, I wonder why they don’t think they are ridiculous culture that needs changing.

      If the world is paying attention to Quebec this year, what does it know?

      It is aware that Que has a large bureaucracy set up to police Italian restaurants that use the word ‘pasta’ on their menus and that white, dominate class of people are so insecure and xenophobic of foreign people they ban young kids from playing sport because they are different.

    • It’s my greatest hope that this example is followed by many more players and teams in Quebec.

  20. Interesting I suppose but irrelevant since this is not the stance the Federation has taken, as you noted. Soccer is the only sport that anyone can play anywhere in the world because all you need is a ball…except for here in Quebec. It’s ridiculous and let’s not forget, someone can play with a kippa, so this has nothing to do with respecting the game but rather respecting others.

  21. I’ll say this is a well-argued piece, and no doubt sincere.

    However,fundamentally we should be looking askance at the QSF. When confronted with the issue, the QSF apparently chose to set their own interpretation in isolation.

    A well-managed and well-led organization would have assessed and considered what other federations (in Canada, in North America, around the world) did when confronted with the issue. There is scant evidence that the QSF did so; if they had done it would be unlikely they would have arrived at their decision.

    So, for all the reasoning and sincerity M. Delorme puts into the piece, the QSF decision would appear to have been taken either for narrow cultural reasons, or out of sheer
    incompetence. After seeing the clip of Mme Frot advise Sikh children to play in their backyards, I think its probably a combination of the two.

    M. Delorme’s argument after the fact that the decision taken was a good one from the point of view of uniformity is intellectually dishonest, as that reason has nothing to do with the stated reason for the ban.

    Perhaps instead of offering the QSF a crutch by providing circuitous reasoning to justify the ban, M. Delorme should be looking at why an organization that should be dedicated to the promotion and accessibility of the “beautiful game” in its jurisdiction is somehow finding ways of limiting that accessibility without reference to the resolution of the same issue in other jurisdictions.

    Is the situation with respect to player safety (or ‘uniformity’ for that matter) somehow so different in Quebec such that an entirely different ruling was arrived at than other, similar jurisdictions? Highly unlikely IMO.

  22. “Important because, for 90 minutes or so, everyone is dressed the same. Everyone is part of the team. Everyone is working together. Black, white or any other skin color. Francophone, Anglophone or allophone.”

    National Post – Aug 2010:

    The article, titled “The weirdest people in the world?”, appears in the
    current issue of the journal Brain and Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Henrich and
    co-authors Steven Heine and Ara Norenzayan argue that life-long members of
    societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, democratic –
    people who are WEIRD – see the world in ways that are alien from the rest of
    the human family. The UBC trio have come to the controversial conclusion
    that, say, the Machiguenga are not psychological outliers among humanity. We

    “If you’re a Westerner, your intuitions about human psychology are probably
    wrong or at least there’s good reason to believe they’re wrong,” Dr. Henrich

    After analyzing reams of data from earlier studies, the UBC team found that
    WEIRD people reacted differently from others in experiment after experiment
    involving measures of fairness, anti-social punishment and co-operation, as
    well as visual illusions and questions of individualism and conformity.


  23. There is none unless they can show it impedes on the rights of others, affects game play or is a safety concern.

  24. In Latin America some players sometimes use props during the game and nothing is said.

  25. Simon’s argument of “universality” is made of thin gruel that doesn’t taste quite right.

    What’s really wrong with QSF, and Pauline Marois, is their eyes. When I look out at our team on the field I see soccer players, not some white kids here, some brown kids there, some turban wearing kids over there, and some Asian kids here. I only see soccer players wearing a *standard uniform*.

    That some have a head covering and some do not takes absolutely nothing away from the standard uniform. During outdoor winter play some youth players will sport toques. Over the course of many years I’ve not once witnessed a toque wearing youth player ejected from the field. This is Canada, after all.

    An absolutely “standard uniform” doesn’t exist for most teams. Will all players sport black shoes? Do we ban orange shoes or white or red? Beyond the obviously necessary – protective equipment, shoes, socks, shorts, and jersey – adding further homogeneity doesn’t improve team bonding or performance.

    What does impact access instead is the attitudes and culture of the local federation, its clubs, organizers, coaches, officials, and, in the case of youth soccer, parents. Unbelievably In Quebec even the premier gets into the act, and dishonourably so.

    In framing the impact on affected individuals as a minor inconvenience — it’s only “90 minutes” — Simon is either oblivious of importance observant Sikhs place in this religious symbol, or is willing to use his argument, and sport, as a weapon to exclude Sikhs and others from sport in Quebec.

    Only “90 minutes” might as well be a lifetime for observant Sikhs as they’ll only remove their turban in the most private and intimate of circumstances such as when bathing and in a highly ritualistic manner.

    A soccer pitch is not an intimate environment for an observant Sikh. Removing their turban for “90 minutes”, field side, simply isn’t going to happen. Would it be wrong to accuse at least some proponents of this ban as being fully aware of the absolutely exclusionary nature of this directive? For the rest, an eye examination, or a visit to one of many B.C. soccer fields where the turbaned, toqued, and bare-headed play the sport, not political-cultural games.

  26. If uniformity is the value, why are players permitted to wear headbands?

  27. Religion is bunk anyways, no matter what you wear or don’t wear.

  28. Yes, but we’re talking about children’s local sports. Children who haven’t even had an opportunity to decide yet what religion they want to be. Let reason prevail over righteousness and let’s not punish the kids’ health (for we’re also talking about exercise in an era of obesity) for the sake of ideological niceities.

  29. So, jewelry is not permitted. I am a devote Christian and I wear my chain with a cross because of my belief… May I play without removing it?

    • no.

  30. Grad student gets an f for a feeble argument about universality of sport. Have you seen the different types of helmets in hockey? One year the flyers wore long pants when no other team did. Also, we all wear the same uniform argument is something you hear at a trailer park — and really we can just make up ideas about the case for sports accommodation? Yes, now I recall that passage from our charter. Seriously, this is the best you got? it shows just how utterly defenceless Quebec’s turban ban is. Let’s not solicit arguments for racism any more Macleans. What used to be your bread and butter issues are so 20th century. Welcome to the modern world.

  31. It’s an interesting argument, but one that attaches to facts that don’t exist. If the QSF had abandoned FIFA’s rules for home grown “laic” rules Delorme’s post would be a reasonable defense of them (although I would still disagree with such rules). But the QSF is not applying FIFA rules (is it salt in the wound if I suggest the QSF check with the CSA to remedy any doubts?).

  32. A simple google search will reveal how mistaken the author is. FIFA Law 4 allows for turbans at the discretion of the referee.. They are worn throughout the England FA, The USSF, the Football Assoc. of Ireland, India, Australia and throughout Canada.

  33. If you’re talking about uniformity and universality, what would have been your response to Jacques Plante donning a goalie mask?

    • What an awesome reply. Thank you. It’s sad what’s in some people’s hearts, though not surprising in this case, considering the writer’s ‘name.’

  34. What a joke Canada has become. We have no identity except that of a bunch of push over high tax paying invalids. Come to Canada and do anything you want. Even play soccer with a turban. Have any of you idiots ever played soccer? Are you aware of a play using your head and it’s called “heading the ball”? This is a very common play in soccer and one that is performed by every player on the field at least once during a game.
    How can one properly play the game with a turban on? The right answer is that you can NOT play the game properly wearing religious head gear. Absolutely ridiculous.
    This has nothing to do with religion it’s about drawing a line in the sand about how far we are willing to go before it just gets silly. I respect Quebec for having the fortitude to stand up for their culture (beliefs) as the rest of Canada has lost theirs. Pathetic.

  35. The writer is completely misguided. I imagine the FIFA rules are in place to; 1. allow the player to be properly identified as being on a particular team, being a goal keeper, or being an official, 2. ensure that the player is not provided an advantage with the equipment or clothing that they wear, 3. safety, both to the player themself and to others, and 4. ensure the player does not provide advertising or promotion to someone or something outside of a FIFA sanctioned sponsorship arrangement. That’s it, that’s all. FIFA rules have nothing to do with universality. The rules of the QSF and opinions of the Quebec government reflect bigotry, pure and simple, cloaked in a rational that is trying to make it more palatable. If one consumed enough drugs, you might make the argument that wearing a turban, or similar gear that distinguishes religion, might infringe on law 4 regarding sponsorship. If the player were good enough that they promote their religion indirectly. Let’s call this for what it is, another example of xenophobic behavior that is becoming more frequent. Universality should not be confused with tolerance. They are two separate, and in this case, conflicting ideals.

  36. I can understand the desire to have all players leave one’s overtly manifested affiliations – be it political, or religious, or philosophical – aside for the sake of team cohesiveness.

    If, say, the NDP had a symbol used as an affiliation tool, for example, supporters have to wear polka dot ties, I would object to NDP supporters insisting on wearing their ties on the pitch. Players are there to play soccer, not to promote their particular affiliation – whatever form it may be. Non-Sikhs playing in the Punjab would also stand out perhaps, but they wouldn’t be promoting any support for any particular association, just the fact that they are not promoting ANY association. So it would be a far more neutral stance.

    Sikhism is only another hocus-pocus spiritual view, but comparatively to the Abrahamic ones, at least it seems relatively benign.