WASHINGTON, DC – A leading American civil rights group welcomed Sunday, October 1, the new ruling by the International Basketball Federation allowing hijab in international competitions for the first time.
“The official implementation of FIBA’s new policy on headgear is a tremendous victory for everyone who cherishes religious freedom and believes that athletes should be selected to compete based on their abilities and skills, not their religious beliefs,” Dr. Zainab Chaudry, Maryland Outreach Manager of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), said in a statement sent to AboutIslam.
“This development signals critical progress in competitive sports and beyond. CAIR congratulates our coalition partners and the athletes we have been working with who were directly impacted by this decision. We applaud FIBA for making the right decision.”
The decision by the Switzerland-based federation (FIBA) lifts the ban on religious headgear and allows players who wear articles of faith, including the hijab, worn by Muslim female athletes, to participate in international competitions.
Last week, CAIR-Philadelphia called on the Marple-Newtown School District in Newtown Square, Pa., to allow a Sikh high school soccer player to compete while wearing his religiously-mandated head covering.
Earlier this year, CAIR welcomed news that FIBA was making progress in the right direction to allow religious headgear.
Last year, CAIR joined more than 50 interfaith and advocacy organization calling on FIBA to lift its ban on religious headgear that prohibits Muslim, Sikh and Jewish athletes from competing on a professional level.
CAIR has also called on the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) and USA Boxing to grant a religious exemption to current uniform regulations so that athletes may wear a hijab during competition.
In the past, 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 welcomed 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.