Canadian designs hijab for soccer players

Elham Seyed Javad, who founded the company iQo Quebec, manufactures a sports hijab for FIFA, which...

Elham Seyed Javad, who founded the company iQo Quebec, manufactures a sports hijab for FIFA, which could be carried by thousands of Muslim women worldwide. (SARAH-MAUDE LEFEBVRE/QMI Agency)

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:23 PM ET

MONTREAL - The international soccer governing body will consider a prototype of a sports hijab designed by an Iranian-Canadian.

The International Federation of Association Football, commonly known by its acronym FIFA, banned the hijab in 2007. Rule 4 of FIFA's Laws of the Game states that a player's equipment "must not have any political religious or personal statements."

However, FIFA announced last month that it will allow women to wear specially designed sport hijabs. A final decision on the new headwear is expected in summer.

Elham Seyed Javad, 28, owner of Montreal-based IQO Design, told QMI Agency that she didn't think twice about submitting her proposal to FIFA after it reversed its decision.

"Not even nine hours after my letter was received, the director general of FIFA's board called me," she said.

Javad's design will be considered along with a prototype from Capsters, a Netherlands-based company that specializes in sports headwear for Muslim women.

If chosen, Javad said the financial rewards could be "enormous" as Muslim women around the world could be wearing her design. She said FIFA is expecting her prototype in a few weeks.

This marks the second time Javad has designed a sporty hijab. In 2008, she created ResportOn, a hijab for female martial arts athletes.

ResportOn was designed and is manufactured in Canada, and it's already being sold around the world. The garment looks like a tank top attached to a balaclava. She said the Australian federal police bought one of her hijabs for its first female Muslim recruit. The Iranian government is also considering one of her designs for all of its female athletes for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, she said.

"The hijab is often associated in the media with a loss of power for women," she said. "However, I think that people understand that in this case, it's more of a form of freedom for Muslim women who want to play sports."

FIFA's decision will also have implications for Quebec soccer. Last June, Sarah Benkirane, a 15-year-old referee was fired for wearing a hijab. Quebec's soccer federation justified her dismissal by claiming that it was following international rules set by FIFA.

"The situation is clear," the federation said in a statement following that decision. "Wearing a hijab is not allowed on Quebec's soccer fields just as necklaces, earrings, rings are prohibited, and we will follow the rule until FIFA says otherwise."

Michel Dugas, a spokesman for the Quebec Soccer Federation, told QMI Agency that the organization looks to the Canadian Soccer Association when updating its rules. He added that if FIFA decides to reverse its hijab ban, then "it's foreseen that (Quebec) will follow."


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