Haneen Zreika has explained why she missed the Giants’ pride round game and refused to wear a special jumper on religious grounds.
AFLW player Haneen Zreika has addressed why she didn’t play for the GWS Giants on Friday after refusing to wear the club’s special jumper designed for Pride Round.
The practising Muslim sat out the clash against the Western Bulldogs in Sydney after grappling with the decision in recent weeks.
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It was reported Zreika spoke to her teammates earlier in the week about not wanting to wear a special guernsey as part of the league’s celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community, and she spoke publicly about her choice with an Instagram statement on Friday.
“As the first Australian Muslim woman in the AFLW, I have a responsibility to represent my faith and my community. I respect people regardless of their sexual orientation,” Zreika said.
“This decision was extremely difficult and I appreciate the support of AFL, Giants, my teammates.
“Inclusion is about creating a space where people are able to respect their right to choose how they live their life as long as they don’t advocate hate and division.
“My platform is not a place for people to disrespect and harass others so please be kind.”
Zreika’s decision sparked plenty of debate among footy fans and her social media followers.
“So you’re progressive enough to be a woman playing in a male-dominated sport and fight for the Invasion Day cause, but you’re so against LGBTQ+ rights that you can’t even stand wearing a rainbow guernsey for 90 minutes? Pick a side,” one commented.
“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,” another wrote. “It is a privilege to be awarded a spot in the AFLW and one that you should not take for granted, especially when you choose to deliberately discriminate against your own teammates. Absolutely NOBODY in the AFLW has discriminated against you because of your religion, yet you have the audacity to basically tell your teammates you are better than them simply because of who they are? Sorry mate, take a long hard look at yourself. There is a difference between having beliefs and using them to deliberately hurt others.”
But others supported her move. “Hey haneen I came to thank you for being a public figure that stands for our Islamic values,” one wrote. “I converted to Islam 15 years ago and have a daughter that plays football. I raise her to respect and value each person regardless of their beliefs but to also stay firm on hers … thank you for setting an example for all of us.”
Another added: “Good on you for sticking by your beliefs, whatever that they may be and you certainly shouldn’t be copping any hate for it. Everyone should just respect her decision and move on.”
Speaking last week at the launch of the Giants’ Pride jumper, GWS star Rebecca Privitelli said: “It’s so important and such a big step for our club and our supporters.
“I know our girls are really excited to pull on the jumper, it’s a big part of all our lives and I hope our fans feel the same way.
“There’s a lot of young boys and girls out there that need role models to look up to and I think the AFLW are doing an incredible thing to give young women and men that opportunity.”