Haneen Zreika, Muslim Soccer Player, Failed Modernity Test


It is not difficult to be critical of those who break barriers, due to being aided by the larger society, to only then turn around and deny rights and justice to another group.

For instance, I have taken to task some Black and Latino churches in our nation who have not embraced the gay civil rights measures that we either enacted or others yet needed to be attained. After having received support over the decades from diverse multitudes for civil rights it would only make sense that those who knew discrimination would fight for those facing it. The lack of full-throated support for gay marriage from these churches when every voice counted still rankles at this blogger’s desk.

Now consider the current news story concerning Haneen Zreika. While listening to the BBC this sports story caught my attention.

She is the first Muslim to play in the Australian Football League Women’s Competition. It is to be applauded and she deserves credit for following a dream and using her skills for a team effort. There was strong support and encouragement for her to take the field and be proud of her accomplishment.

But when it came to playing a Gay Pride match and wearing a rainbow-themed jumper she took a path that does not place her in a good light. Because she claimed the wearing of the jumper did not align with her religious beliefs, Zreika chose to sit out of the game.

This is the first year that her team had a specially designed jumper for the Pride game which supports inclusion and diversity in sports–which is still regrettably–a persisting problem. While Zreika played in the Pride game last year she refused to wear the jumper this week.

Some may see all this as small potatoes–as it might have been termed back home as a child. Some will argue that true diversity exists when even stances, such as that taken by Zreika, are accepted. I do not align with such views. Making accommodations for only a certain level of bigotry is not progress or something we can find agreeable.

This story also relates to a larger theme made on this blog when it comes to the Muslim faith. There is a tremendous need for modernity by its followers, and until it is allowed oxygen current stress points remain. A tortured education system that spawns new converts to the harshest interpretation of the Koran, religious views that stunt and deprive upward mobility, and a culture that is male-dominated all require talented voices to make a difference.

Haneen Zreika could have been such a voice. One step at a time is not a trite phrase. History continually demonstrates the power of one voice added to another and then another…

Therefore, it was not a pretty picture to see Zreika sitting on the sidelines for the Pride match. It was hurtful to some of her teammates and coaching staff, and instead of serving as a role model to her larger community, it underscored what is so lacking in the Muslim world.

And so it goes.

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