Quebec Soccer Federation schedules emergency meeting on turban ban

The Quebec Soccer Federation was set to hold an emergency meeting Tuesday evening to discuss its ban on turbans, a controversial ruling that has drawn international attention and led to the organization’s suspension from the Canadian Soccer Association.

The meeting was to be closed to the public. The federation has said it will issue a statement Wednesday.

The Quebec body cited safety concerns when it announced it was upholding the turban ban June 2. It also noted at the time that the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) did not have any rules that specifically allow players to wear turbans.

While FIFA has not released an official statement on the ban or the suspension, it did respond to an email from Raghav Sandhu, a Ryerson University student and president of the university’s South Asian Alliance group. As reported by the Canadian Press, FIFA told Sandhu that it had lifted its previous ban on wearing hijabs and turbans.

“Initially, I thought that they did not have a clear stance on turbans on the soccer pitch, but the e-mail stated the contrary,” said Sandhu, reached by email. “The response was clear in my eyes. FIFA stated that they allowed religious headgear such as the hijab and turban.”

Days after the renewed ban was announced, the Canadian Soccer Association announced it was suspending the Quebec organization. “The Quebec Soccer Federation’s inaction has forced us to take measures in order to ensure soccer remains accessible to the largest number of Canadians,” CSA president Victor Montagliani said. Last week the CSA released a statement saying it wished to ‘strongly reaffirm’ its position allowing soccer players to wear turbans, a position it said it communicated to member organizations this past April.

The World Sikh Organization of Canada has expressed disappointment over the federation’s decision and argued the banning of a religious garment could be considered a violation of human rights. The issue has also gained traction in the international press, garnering coverage in outlets including the BBC and the New York Times. Two petitions are currently circulating on, and another on Care2 has garnered over 2,000 signatures.

The Quebec Soccer Federation has yet to explain its safety concerns. The group has said it can’t afford to fund safety research.

Last year FIFA reversed an earlier ban on the hijab, allowing Muslim women the option of wearing headscarves while playing soccer. The ban was lifted following the creation of two special sport-specific prototypes, including one by Montreal fashion designer Elham Sayed Javad, that allowed the material to be released instantly if pulled around the neck, accommodations that reduced the perceived safety hazard.