(WASHINGTON, D.C., 8/30/16) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations today joined the Sikh Coalition and MPower Change to release an open letter in partnership with more than 50 interfaith and advocacy organization calling on the Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to lift its ban on religious headgear that bars Muslim, Sikh and Jewish athletes from competing on a professional level.
Addressed to FIBA President Horatio Muratore, the letter spotlights two American athletes who have been directly impacted by FIBA’s discriminatory policy: Bilqis Abdul-Qadir, who made history in 2010 to become the first Muslim-American NCAA basketball player to compete wearing the Islamic headscarf, and Darsh Preet Singh, who in 2004 to become the first Sikh-American NCAA basketball player to compete wearing the Sikh turban.
The coalition’s letter reads in part:
"We understand FIBA is expected to announce a permanent decision in the near future on whether the ban on religious accommodations will be enforced. We believe this rule, as it stands, violates basic religious rights of athletes like Singh and Abdul-Qaadir, and countless others, and defies international human rights norms.
“FIFA's International Football Association Board has acknowledged the religious rights of athletes by changing its rules to allow hijabs and Sikh turbans. We request that FIBA follow suit and amend this discriminatory policy to allow athletes of all faiths to compete while maintaining religious principles.
“No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport. Muslim women and Sikh men seeking to participate in sporting activities like anyone else should not face superficial and arbitrary barriers to that participation."
"This open letter, signed by dozens of diverse national and local organizations, indicates the strong support for religious accommodation in sports," said CAIR Spokesperson Dr. Zainab Chaudry. "Athletes of all faith traditions are inspired by their religious beliefs to work hard to qualify and compete in professional-level sports. We respectfully urge Mr. Muratore and FIBA to change the discriminatory policy and let all athletes play."
"The dozens of organizations signed on to this letter all agree that FIBA's ban has an unfair and discriminatory impact on Muslim, Sikh and Jewish players," said MPower Change Campaign Manager Mohammad Khan. "Other international sporting organizations, such as FIFA, allow religious head coverings. FIBA should join them and allow athletes of all backgrounds to participate in professional and international basketball."
"Nobody should have to choose between their faith and professional sports," said Sikh Coalition Director of Law & Policy Arjun Singh. "We urge FIBA to end its discriminatory ban and allow Sikh, Muslim and Jewish athletes to compete at the highest level."
CAIR applauded FIBA's decision to suspend the ban in September 2014 for a 2-year provisional period, limited only to national competitions, that is set to expire soon. The federation is expected to announce a final decision on allowing religious headgear in the near future.
Recently, CAIR called on the federation again to permanently lift the ban. An online petition spearheaded by MPower Change calling for the ban to be lifted has collected nearly 17,000 signatures.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.
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