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Is There A Football Pecking Order For Beliefs?

  • Friday, January 28 2022 @ 05:07 pm ACDT
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In the case of GWS Giants player, Haneen Zreika, in the AFLW, I must admit to being confused. I was unaware that there was a hierarchy, or order of importance, for what constitutes valid grounds for not playing a match.

From my standpoint, this talented young woman deserves respect, not only for her contribution to women's football in general, and at the highest level, but also as a Muslim woman who is proud and respectful of her beliefs.

Yet, I read that she is a hypocrite and is being attacked, sometimes viciously, across social media for putting her religious beliefs ahead of the LGBTQIA+ community and standing down as a player this weekend to ensure she does not wear a jumper that is in conflict with core Muslim beliefs. This has upset many, and perhaps I am wrong and there is a 'ladder' of importance where some beliefs are more important than others. My confusion comes from the situation that Haneen finds herself in. She is a Muslim, a woman, a footballer, a role model to many, she has her own mental health to consider, a career to balance and so many facets to her life. So, who amongst us has the right to say that because she signed for a football club, there is one priority above all others and if she chooses against that she is a hypocrite.

The majority of people within the LGBTQIA+ community and without will understand that Haneen has not snubbed a movement making her decision. She is simply saying that of all of her life priorities, her religion is higher to her. Why this is a problem confounds me. She has not walked away from the game. She has not had a dummy spit. She has worked this through with her club as well as the AFL, family and religious advice. She has tried to take a rational step to have a game off to avoid conflicts of interest between her sport and her beliefs.

To directly quote people who have poured vitriol on Haneen would be unfair. Suffice to say, the comments out in the social media spheres accuse her of being not just a hypocrite (choosing to put her religious beliefs ahead of the game she should simply be privileged to play), but also not being prepared to stand by her team mates. Comments included in an article on the news.com website accuse "so against LGBTQ+ rights that you can’t even stand wearing a rainbow guernsey for 90 minutes". Further to that, another comment says, "you have no right to preach about having a support system when you refuse to be one for your teammates and players who just happen to be part of the LGBT community."

These comments do not appear to be the sentiments of the LGBTQIA+ community, but people who simply cannot understand another person's views on life priorities. And that is very sad when it seems that one set of beliefs must be of higher value than others for everyone.

According to an article on SBS, Zreika has stated that the decision not to play was "extremely difficult" and that she respects people "regardless of their sexual orientation". She went on to say that her decision was based on being respectful to her faith and community. Surely, that is acceptable, and not a deliberate affront to other's differing belief systems.

Haneen is brave. She is a talented footballer, but way above that, she is a human being with rights and a voice. I feel she is even more of a role model now than before. She has already expressed her support for her team and their beliefs, but is than not enough?

I hope this ends well and the voices of harm and hatred are overpowered by the voices of tolerance, understanding and respect for beliefs. I also do not believe that the voices of anger out there are representative of the whole LGBTQIA+ community.

If her teammates understand, then so should the rest of us. There should not be a pecking order of beliefs. The beliefs of every person should be heard and respected, even if they are not necessarily shared.