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Red-carded: Quebec teen told she can't referee soccer while wearing hijab

A Quebec teen who has been told she can no longer referee soccer while wearing her hijab says she's going to fight the red card.

Sarah Benkirane, 15, said her Montreal-area soccer association informed her she could no longer referee games wearing her traditional Muslim head scarf after someone filed a complaint with the league.

Sarah, in her second season as a ref for the Lac-St-Louis Regional Soccer Association, was told religious symbols like the hijab may not be worn on the pitch.

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But the teenager insists she's not going to give up on her summer job that easily.

"I was kind of frustrated, but right away I started to think, 'OK, this is my chance, if they want to rule [on]this then I'm going to fight it - for sure,'" Sarah said in an interview Tuesday.

"I grew up with friends from every different culture and nobody's ever discriminated against [me]because of religion."

She said she's contacted the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations and plans to put pressure on the Canadian Soccer Association to force Quebec's governing soccer body to overturn its decision.

The president of the Quebec Soccer Federation told reporters Tuesday it is simply applying FIFA's international rules, which stipulate referees and players may not wear religious symbols on the pitch.

"It's clearly stated that officials shall not display commercial, religious … or personal messages of any language," Dino Madonis told a news conference.

The Quebec federation also issued a statement Tuesday to defend its ruling.

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"Therefore the situation is clear! Wearing a hijab is not permitted on Quebec's soccer fields, not any more than necklaces, earrings, rings and such, and won't be until FIFA gives directives to the contrary," the statement said.

Quebec, which was ground zero a few years ago for the debate on the "reasonable accommodation" of minorities, has seen several disputes in recent years over hijabs worn during athletics.

In 2007, an 11-year-old Ottawa girl was ejected from a soccer game in Laval after she refused to remove her hijab, which violated FIFA's no-headgear rule.

That year, a taekwondo team of Muslim girls withdrew from a tournament in Longueuil after they were told they couldn't compete in their hijabs.

Still, Quebec isn't alone when it comes to the debate over sports and the hijab.

In 2007, a soccer player wearing a hijab was ejected from a game in Calgary over safety concerns, a decision that came just weeks after an 11-year-old girl left a Winnipeg judo tournament in tears when officials refused to let her compete in a head scarf.

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