(Reuters) – The first Muslim player in the Australian Rules women’s football league (AFLW) said it was a difficult decision to sit out Friday’s game, which media reports attributed to her religious objections to wearing a special Pride Round jersey.
Haneen Zreika has several openly gay teammates at her club, the Greater Western Sydney Giants.
“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 wrote on Instagram, without explaining details of her decision..
“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.”
Giants coach Alan McConnell said he empathised with Zreika over what for the player was a “complex” issue. She would be welcomed back into the team for the remainder of the season.
“As I said to Haneen, we can have similar opinions, different opinions, but they’ll never break the bond that we have for one another and that she has with her teammates,” McConnell said after the Giants beat the Western Bulldogs on Friday night.
“I’m very comfortable and confident that’s all intact. We empathise with the challenges she faces in these circumstances.
“But equally we’re really proud of the connection and obligations we have to the LBGTQI community.”
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Melbourne; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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