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A Muslim father is upset he isn’t allowed to watch his two 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 two 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 female.
“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 issue 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 non-Muslim 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.