GUEST COMMENT: Soccer turban ban an insult to all

Ban of turban-wearing players from playing the game of soccer is not only discriminatory, but an affront to all Canadians.

The decision by the Quebec Soccer Federation to ban turban-wearing players from playing the game of soccer is not only discriminatory, but an affront to all Canadians across this country who believe in the beauty of Canada’s multicultural spirit and its Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Canadian Soccer Association’s recent suspension of the Quebec federation may certainly help in pressuring the provincial soccer federation to remove its turban ban. The form of discriminatory bullying carried out by QSF is appalling in today’s day and age and is a blemish on the multicultural tradition of this country. It both segregates and ostracizes turbaned children who simply want to play the game of soccer.

As a proud Canadian, I enjoyed playing the game of soccer as a child. As a turbaned Sikh, I never faced any discrimination on the soccer field. The very nature of this sport promotes diversity and teamwork, with young children of all backgrounds interacting with one another and collectively coming together to achieve a common goal.

All I can remember of those fun days is an enjoyable game of soccer, accompanied with laughter and happiness, eating oranges at break time and participating in exciting tournaments.

What will children, who have been banned by the federation over the past year, remember of their childhood soccer experience? A committee of adults simply do not have the common sense to see just how damaging their actions could be on a Canadian society that is so accepting of differences and actively promotes the multicultural mosaic of this nation.

The QSF has supported its actions under false justifications of player safety. However, even from a purely objective standpoint, how many cases of injury can it attribute to the turban? Where is the empirical evidence which states that ‘X’ number of turbaned soccer players have caused injuries on the field?

Attempts at tying discriminatory policies to so-called safety precautions simply have not withstood the public pressure and outcry from Canadians. Nowhere else in Canada, for example, does such a ban exist.

Furthermore, QSF says it is simply following FIFA guidelines. However, nowhere does FIFA explicitly state any sort of ban on turbans. Additionally, the’s unilateral decision to ban turbaned players offends the millions of international soccer players and thousands of soccer federations around the world.

No organization has the right to set up its own discriminatory barriers. The very origins of soccer, dating back thousands of years, have roots in almost all parts of the world, including Europe, Asia and South America.

In the wake of this unfortunate decision, one thing is certain: the multicultural spirit is well and alive in this nation, and has been stirred to action by this ignorant decision.

There has been great protest from Canadians of all colours, races and religions from across this country. One only has to visit news websites or online petitions to see that the majority of Canadians are fully opposed to the actions of the the federation.

In a society that is becoming more aware of bullying and mental health problems, it is disappointing that an organization would carry out an action that runs counter to the progress that we are making on these issues.

The recent action is a wake-up call to Canadians across this country that our concepts of multiculturalism and diversity must be guarded very strongly.

We must never forget how imperative it is to maintain the delicate balance of fundamental freedoms and equality rights set forth in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

Japreet Lehal is a columnist for the Surrey News Leader, a Black Press newspaper.

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