Republic of Ireland news

Woman set to become first Muslim rugby player in Ireland to wear hijab

Ruba Rosalina Bukhatwa (pictured centre) is set to be the first rugby player in Ireland to wear a hijab 
Gail Bell

IRELAND's first hijab-wearing rugby player has been welcomed to training sessions at Tallaght Women's RFC in what has been described as "a real progression" for women's sport.

Muslim player Ruba Rosalina Bukhatwa - known as Rose to her team-mates - only recently joined the club but was keen to play in the headscarf she has worn since a child.

And the club was keen to facilitate her wishes, wasting no time in approaching the officiating body, the IRFU, requesting that the Griffith Law student could play competitive rugby while wearing the traditional hijab - a scarf which covers all of the head while leaving the face exposed.

Women's Development Officer at the South Dublin club, Martina Fitzpatrick, told the Irish News yesterday that she was surprised at the speed with which the IRFU dealt with the exceptional request.

"They came back in a few weeks, which was really quite surprising, to say they would permit Rose to wear her hijab - with some minor adjustments, including an agreement to tuck the scarf into her jersey," she said.

"Rose is delighted and has no problem with that at all. Obviously, safety is a vital consideration, but it is also important for players to still be able to respect their beliefs during play.

"I don't think the IRFU has ever dealt with this sort of request before, so Rose will most probably be the first hijab-playing female rugby player in Ireland.

"It is a great step forward and will hopefully attract more women to the game."

In addition to being securely fitted and tucked into and underneath her jersey, the IRFU also advised that Rose should wear a scrum cap over it to ensure that any lose parts stay close to her head for the duration of the game.

The 18 year-old, who was born in Ireland to Libyan parents and raised in Dublin as a Muslim, said she had been "excited" to wear the hijab ever since she was a nine year-old child at school.

"I was always getting asked questions, which I didn’t know the answer to at the time," she told the Irish Times. "But I was just excited to wear it.

"I was never shunned out of playing sports. But when I went to Santry for athletics, where I did shot put, discus and javelin, people were more impressed than anything by it. I never got any bad comments about it.

"It was like a fashion statement at first when I was young, but when you grow older you learn more. For me I like the fact that I can represent Islam."

The rugby breakthrough comes not long after female footballer Fadhila Hajji, also from Tallaght, took to the pitch in her headscarf following the lifting of a ban on head covers during matches by Fifa in 2014.

The teenager made her debut with Dublin's first Muslim women's football team, Diverse City FC, at the Fair Play Cup on World Refugee Day in May 2014.

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