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CAIR Applauds FIBA Decision to Drop Basketball Hijab Ban

FIBA logo(WASHINGTON, D.C., 9/16/14) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) today applauded a decision by the Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to drop its ban on Islamic headscarves, or hijabs, worn by athletes.

CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, had requested that policy change and had been working with two American Muslim basketball players who were being impacted by the hijab ban.

A FIBA news release issued today states in part:

“In response to the various requests received, the Central Board held in-depth discussions regarding rules about uniforms and decided to put a testing phase into place for the next two years that will consist of:

  • “Relaxing the current rules regarding headgear in order to enable national federations to request, as of now, exceptions to be applied at the national level within their territory without incurring any sanctions for violation of FIBA's Official Basketball Rules. National Federations wishing to apply for such an exception to the uniform regulations shall submit a detailed request to FIBA. Once approved, they shall submit follow-up reports twice a year to monitor the use of such exceptions.
  • “The players will be allowed to play in FIBA endorsed 3×3 competitions – both nationally and internationally – wearing headgear without restrictions, unless the latter presents a direct threat to their safety or that of other players on the court. Players wishing to take part in such competitions with headgear must ensure that a detailed request for approval is addressed to FIBA. …

“We welcome this policy change by FIBA because it allows Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious head coverings to take part in the sport that they love while maintaining their beliefs,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper. “FIBA should be congratulated for responding positively to all those who sought reasonable religious accommodation for athletes of all faiths.”

The inclusion of the hijab ban issue at FIBA's recent meeting in Spain came following a CAIR request that the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) ensure the religious rights of Muslim athletes taking part in a FIBA-sponsored tournament this month at the committee's training center in Colorado Springs, Colo.

SEE: USOC Responds to CAIR's Call to Ensure Rights of Muslim Women at Colo. FIBA B-Ball Tournament

In a letter sent to CAIR in July, USOC Chief Communications and Public Affairs Officer Patrick Sandusky wrote in part:

“We take seriously American athletes right to compete and believe that reasonable steps can be taken to accommodate athletes of all religious beliefs. Working with our colleagues at USA Basketball, we have informed FIBA of our opinion on this matter and FIBA have agreed to place the issue on their agenda for their next board meeting in August.”

SEE: FIBA to Review 'Discriminatory' Ban on Headgear
FIBA 'Headgear' Ban: Bosnian Basketball Pro Indira Kaljo Fights for the Right to Play

CAIR noted that FIFA's International Football Association Board recently acknowledged the religious rights of soccer players by changing its rules to allow hijabs and Sikh turbans.

Earlier this year, CAIR helped a Muslim wrestler at the University at Buffalo in New York obtain a waiver from the NCAA to wear a beard he believes is required by his faith.

In 2011, CAIR applauded a decision by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to modify its policy on competitor apparel to allow modest Islamic attire. The IWF policy change came following intervention by CAIR in the case of a Muslim weightlifter in Georgia who wished to compete while covering her hair, arms and legs.

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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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, ihooper@cair.com; CAIR Communications Manager Amina Rubin, 202-341-4171, arubin@cair.com

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