06 May 2007

Priest-imam football match cancelled in Norway

A football (soccer) match between Church of Norway priests and Muslim imams, which was scheduled to be held on 5 May in Oslo, has had to be cancelled because the two sides could not come to an understanding regarding female players.

Two days before the match was supposed to be held, the imams' team announced that they could not play against a mixed-gender team, because Islam does not allow unrelated men and women to come into close physical contact. The Church of Norway team agreed to make the game an all-male event. However, the female ministers who had been dropped from the team were angry at the development, which led the team captain to tender his resignation.

As a result, the Church of Norway called off the match. According to a Church spokesman, though, "both sides have learned to better understand our cultures and we have had an open discussion" (BBC).

I think that, first of all, the imams should not have made such a big deal out of the presence of female players on the Church of Norway team, but, having said that, I think that the Church team also displayed a large measure of inflexibility. Come on, now. Men and women don't play on the same teams in professional football matches. Why do they have to play together in this sort of bridge-building event? Why not hold a separate football match for female Church of Norway ministers and a team of Muslim women? If that is discrimination, isn't the existence of separate men's and women's World Cups a form of discrimination as well? Where are the Church of Norway's protests at regular, all-male or all-female football matches?

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