CAIRO - Joyous Australia Muslim female footballers hailed the world football governing body FIFA's ruling that has allowed women to wear a headscarf in international football matches as respecting religious freedoms for female Muslims around the world.
"My whole life is pretty much sports," Assmaah Helal, 25, a centre-back with the UNSW Eastern Lions Women's Super League team who wears the hijab, told The Sydney Morning Herald on Monday, July 9.
"It'll have very positive implications.
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There will be that awareness that Muslim women can pursue an elite level now â¦ and showing that there is nothing stopping them from representing Australia at the international level, she added.
On Thursday the FIFA reversed a ban on the Islamic hijab enforced since 2007, notably because the garment did not provide a safety risk if approved headscarves are used with quick-release fasteners.
Headscarves were banned from FIFA competitions in 2007.
Last March 2012, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) allowed women players to wear the hijab, a decision the waited ratification by FIFA's meeting last Thursday.
Later on, IFAB asked for further medical experts' advice that eased their opposition to the ban on Muslim footballers' hijab last week.
Hearing the news, Helal described her absolute joy and relief describing the decision as good news for Muslim female footballers around the world who wear the hijab and will be allowed to compete at the international level.
Though Football Federation Australia did not ban the headscarf but, Helal was denied the right to represent Australia at the Olympics or the World Cup under the 2007 FIFA ruling.
Initially it was really disheartening because football really promotes women, but it just put a halt on it, Helal said.
If girls wearing the hijab were keen on playing, it put a barrier on them. It was contradictory and it was just not what football stood for."
Allowing hijab, FIFA said that safety and medical issues had been removed for the use of the headscarf.
But Helal rejected the reasoning that headscarves posed a strangulation risk.
I felt that was unjustified because there was no proof so I thought it was a bit discriminatory, she said.
Moya Dodd, the vice-president of the Asian Football Confederation and a former Matilda, a famous Australian design company, welcomed the FIFA's decision.
Dodd was part of a year-long campaign to overturn the hijab ban, spearheaded by the FIFA vice-president and executive committee member Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.
She believes the ruling is a turning point for the game as increasing numbers of Muslim women are becoming involved in football and reaching its elite ranks.
It's just a matter of time before there is a hijab-wearing Matilda, she said
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one's affiliations.
Hijab has never posed a problem for veiled Muslim athletes.
Physical Olympic sports such as rugby and taekwondo allow Muslim women to wear the headscarf in competition.
In the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, half a dozen of veiled Egyptians, three Iranians, an Afghan and a Yemeni completed in sprinting, rowing, taekwondo and archery.
During the games, many hijab-clad athletes made it to the medal schedule, including veiled Bahraini sprinter Ruqaya Al-Ghasara, who made history for Muslim women athletes after winning a gold medal at the 2006 West Asian Games.
Reproduced with permission from OnIslam.net