Islamic school apologizes after its all-male soccer team refuses to play opponent with female players

By Roger Belgrave
Mississauga News | June 1, 2015

BRAMPTON — A Mississauga-based Islamic private school “regrets” girls on an opposing soccer team had to sit out of a game last week when religious beliefs and gender equality clashed on the playing field.

The high school soccer game became a lightning rod for controversy after an all-male team fielded by the Muslim private school refused to play a team with female players.

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The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a civil liberties advocacy group, also weighed in on the issue Friday.

The organization noted, like other faiths, there is diverse interpretation of religious doctrine within the Muslim faith and less conservative believers might have no objection to competing against players of the opposite sex.

The soccer pitch is not unfamiliar ground to have controversy play out over religious and civil freedoms, noted NCCM Executive Director Ihsaan Gardee, who remembers Muslim girls wearing headscarves were banned from soccer fields in Quebec a few years ago.

ISNA should have been aware of the league rules and the girls on the Robert F. Hall should never have been put in that position, Gardee insisted.

But as in the past, with similar controversies, there should be an attempt made to balance the competing rights so everyone is free to participate, he said.

“Now that they have apologized I think we should look at how do they move forward,” remarked Gardee. “I think that’s the next challenge.”