Today, Athlete Ally in partnership with Shirzanan, a media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes, published an open letter calling on FIBA to overturn its discriminatory ban on headgear — which includes the hijab worn by observant Muslim athletes. The open letter has been signed by over 30 athletes, and can be found in full below.
“Today, we stand with Muslim athletes around the world,” said Hudson Taylor, executive director of Athlete Ally. “Athletes shouldn’t have to choose between their religion and the sport that they love, and by overturning this ban, we’re providing greater access to sport for Muslim women and girls everywhere.”
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Dear President Muratore,
We the undersigned athletes call on the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to defend religious freedom and immediately lift the ban on religious headgear.
FIBA’s mission, vision, and values for the sport of basketball are sentiments we share. As athletes, we want FIBA to create a united basketball community that brings people together. We want the sport of basketball to remain exciting, smart and united. We want FIBA and the sport of basketball to be progressive, open and responsible. But due to the existing ban on religious headgear, FIBA is failing to live up to these values.
As of 2010, there were 1.6 billion Muslims in the world. That is 23% of the world’s population. While Islam is the 2nd most popular religion in the world, it remains the fastest-growing major religion. In addition, Sikh and Muslim athletes who respectively wear turbans and hijabs as mandated by their faith are excluded from participating in FIBA-endorsed competitions. Requiring athletes to choose between their faith and their sport is counter to everything for which sport stands.
FIBA’s non-discrimination policy states that it, “does not tolerate any form of discrimination.” So long as the ban on religious headgear remains, millions of Muslim girls and women from the around the world will be denied the access, opportunity, and experience of basketball. This is discrimination but it can easily be remedied.
Sports federations have already created affirmative policies for religious headgear, have had women competing while wearing headscarves at the highest level of sport, and have never had a single health or safety issue. The International Football Federation (FIFA) overturned their ban on religious headgear in 2014. As a result, there has been adequate opportunity to prove that the hijab offers no health or safety threat in a team sport that has similar physical demands as basketball – and indeed it doesn’t.
Every day the FIBA hijab ban remains, is another day where Muslim girls and women from around the world miss out on experiencing the joys of basketball. Countries that require female athletes to compete in hijab like Iran and Saudi Arabia, will not be given the opportunity to grow the sport of basketball. This policy only serves to limit the sport, not lift it to becoming as popular a sport as we know it can and should be.
We respectfully request that FIBA immediately overturns its ban on religious headgear. Basketball cannot wait, and the women and girls who are directly impacted by this policy should not be asked to wait any longer. FIBA must hear this call to action and overturn its ban on religious headgear.
Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, USA, Basketball
Ibtihaj Muhammad, USA, Fencing, Bronze Medal Olympian (‘16)
Ruqsana Begum, UK, World Muay Thai Champion (‘16)
Soolmaz Abooali, USA, Traditional Karate
Shamila Kohestani, Afghanistan, Former Football
Hajar Abulfazil, Afghanistan, Football
Kulsoom Abdullah, USA, Olympic Weightlifting
Amaiya Zafar, USA, Boxer
Noorena Shams, Pakistan, Squash
Amani Ammoura, Jordan, Cycling
Rehab Shawky, Egypt, Cycling
Kiran Khan, Pakistan, Swimming, Olympian (‘08)
Karima Christmas, WNBA, Dallas Wings
Courtney Vandersloot – WNBA, Chicago Sky
Breanna Stewart, WNBA Seattle Storm, Team USA, Olympian (’16)
Layshia Clarendon, WNBA, Atlanta Dream
Elizabeth Williams, WNBA, Atlanta Dream
Tina Charles, WNBA, New York Liberty
Tanisha Wright, WNBA, New York Liberty
Carolyn Swords, WNBA, New York Liberty
Amanda Zahui B, WNBA, New York Liberty
Shavonte Zellous, WNBA, New York Liberty
Brittany Boyd, WNBA, New York Liberty
Kiah Stokes, WNBA, New York Liberty
Sugar Rodgers, WNBA, New York Liberty
Epiphany Prince, WNBA, New York Liberty
Jayne Appel – Retired WNBA, San Antonio Stars
Toccara Ross, FIBA athlete
Kenneth Faried, NBA, Denver Nuggets
Lindsay Kagawa Colas, FIBA Certified Agent
Martina Navratilova, Tennis
Billie Jean King, Tennis
James Blake, Tennis
Nick Rogers, USA, President Minnesota United FC
Mary Harvey, USA, USWNT Gold Medal Olympian (’96)
Joanna Lohman, NWSL, Washington Spirit
Yael Averbuch, USWNT, Kansas City FC
Beverly Yanez, A-League, Melbourne City FC
Eli A. Wolff, USA, Soccer, Paralympian (’96 & ’04)
Chris Kluwe, USA, Former NFL Punter, Minnesota Vikings
Husain Abdullah, USA, Former NFL Free Safety, Kansas City Chiefs
Hamza Abdullah, USA, Former NFL Defensive Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carrie Sheinberg, USA Skiing, Olympian (‘94)
Esther Lofgren, USA Rowing, Gold Medal Olympian (‘12)
April Ross, USA Beach Volleyball, Olympian (‘12 & ‘16)
Sally Roberts, USA Wrestling, World Bronze Medalist (‘05)
Adeline Gray, USA Wrestling 3x World Champion and Olympian (’16)
Leigh Jaynes, USA Wrestling, World Bronze Medalist (‘15)
Nancy Hogshead-Makar, USA Swimming, Olympic Gold Medalist (‘84)
Mark Tewksbury, USA Swimming, Olympic gold medalist (‘92)
Julie Foudy, USA, Soccer, Gold Medal Olympian (’96 & ’04)
Sara McMann, USA, Wrestling, UFC Fighter & Silver Medal Olympian (’04)
Tela O’Donnell, USA, Wrestling, Olympian (’04)