Mus­lim net­ball tour­na­ment’s male ban ex­as­per­ates fa­ther

Weekend Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

It is rather sad that it is hap­pen­ing here in New Zealand.

A Mus­lim fa­ther is up­set he isn’t al­lowed to watch his t wo daugh­ters com­pete at an Is­lamic women’s net­ball tour­na­ment.

But or­gan­is­ers say it’s im­por­tant for the girls to have a “se­cure en­vi­ron­ment” to play sport.

The fa­ther, who wished to re­main anony­mous, has t wo daugh­ters play­ing in today’s Mus­lim women’s net­ball tour­na­ment at Zayed Col­lege For Girls in Auck­land.

The tour­na­ment has been run­ning for the last 15 years or so and has al­ways ex­cluded men from the event. The ref­er­ees and coaches at the tour­na­ment are also re­quired to be fe- male. “We as men can’t go and watch the tour­na­ment.

“My daugh­ters are play­ing and I can’t watch them play,” the fa­ther said.

“I can un­der­stand swim­ming be­cause they wear dif­fer­ent clothes, but net­ball is net­ball, women should be able to watch men and men able to watch women . . . It is rather sad that it is hap­pen­ing here in New Zealand.”

Ear­lier this year, a WaterSafe Auck­land ini­tia­tive at YMCA’s Cameron Pool and Leisure Cen­tre in Mt Roskill had the pools par­tially closed one night a week to give Mus­lim women the op­por­tu­nity to learn to swim.

How­ever, the Mus­lim fa­ther said the net­ball ex­clu­sion was “far worse than the re­quest made by Mus­lim women for the sep­a­rate swim­ming ses­sions”.

“Dads, grand­dads can­not watch younger chil­dren in chil­dren’s grades or youth grade play. Hus­bands, male fam­ily mem­bers can­not watch wives or mums play in the se­nior grades. No men are al­lowed to at­tend,” he added.

“When seg­re­ga­tion and sep­a­ra­tion hap­pens based on gen­der only — and where there is no cul­tural or re­li­gious rea­son to sup­port it, it needs to be stopped by iden­ti­fy­ing it for what it is.” How­ever, one of the tour­na­ment or­gan­is­ers, Maz Khan of the Is­lamic Women’s Coun­cil of New Zealand, said the net­ball tour­na­ment has, and would re­main, ex­clu­sively for women.

“Some of the girls also play in main­stream teams, but we hold this es­pe­cially for our Mus­lim girls so that it gives them a chance to play with just peo­ple who are also cov­ered like them.

“We do it in an en­vi­ron­ment like Zayed Col­lege, where there’s no men, so if the play­ers wanted to take their [ hi­jab] off and play, they can — it’s a se­cure en­vi­ron­ment.”

Zayed Col­lege is an Is­lamic school for girls in Man­gere.

Khan said no man had ever ap­proached the or­gan­is­ers with an i ssue about the ex­clu­sion of men be­fore.

“They un­der­stand the re­li­gious as­pect of it . . . The dads know.”

She said “some par­ents are very strict” and don’t al­low their daugh­ters to play in main­stream teams.

“They want to come and play, this is their chance to play . . . We need peo­ple to know that there is op­por­tu­nity for girls like this.”

Khan said the or­gan­is­ers also al­lowed each team to have one non- Mus­lim player if they were short of play­ers.

“It also gives us a chance to pro­mote our re­li­gion and say ‘ we’re open to other peo­ple, if your team is run­ning short you can bring one nonMus­lim player’, but the first chance is for the Mus­lim girls.”

The tour­na­ment for ju­nior, youth and se­nior grades has al­ways just been net­ball, but other sports may be con­sid­ered for fu­ture events, Khan said.

A tro­phy ded­i­cated to “mum sup­port” is also awarded to the mum who cheers the loud­est for their daugh­ter on the day.

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