Muslim teen in Florida barred from playing soccer due to head scarf

[Update: Teen Plays Soccer In Scarf After Ban]

PALM HARBOR, Fla. — A Muslim teenager was forced to sit out a youth soccer tournament after a referee ruled the girl’s head scarf was not part of her uniform and violated game rules.

Iman Khalil was forced to sit out the game Saturday even though parents, her teammates and even opposing players urged the referee to let her play.

The referee, Steve Richardson, stood by his decision after other officials checked with the United Soccer Association and were told Iman could play the second half wearing the scarf, according to Hernando Heat assistant coach Mike Duke.

A message left by The Associated Press for a Steve Richardson listed on the Florida State Referees Association web site was not immediately returned Sunday.

The 15-year-old said that her white-and-blue head scarf has never been an issue in the two years she has played competitively for the team.

“I don’t think it should be a problem that I wear it,” Iman told The Tampa Tribune.

United Soccer Association executive board president Frank Villaizan said Sunday he regretted Iman was not allowed to take part in the Heat’s 4-0 victory.

Villaizan said the rule allows players to wear any religious article as long as it isn’t something that would cause injury. He said he reminded the people who assign game referees about the rule.

Iman was on the field Sunday for the team’s game, Villaizan said, adding that he had spoken with her mother and was at the field.

“I’m sure it won’t happen again,” he said.

Villaizan said he did not know if Richardson exceeded his authority by refusing to allow Khalil to play the second half, referring that question to the Florida State Referees Association.

A message left with the association by the AP on Sunday was not immediately returned.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Monday October 15, 2007.
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