Athlete Ally and Shirzanan Demand FIBA Overturn its Hijab Ban

Today, Athlete Ally and Shirzanan, a media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes, recalled on FIBA to overturn its headgear ban adversely affecting observant Muslim women wearing hijab. This follow’s our effort from earlier this year, when Athlete Ally and Shirzanan penned an open letter signed by over 30 athletes calling for the overturning of the discriminatory ban.

“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.”

Today’s letter to FIBA President Horacio Muratore can be found below. This letter comes as FIBA is meeting May 3-5 and will discuss the ban.

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Dear Presidente Horacio Muratore,

We are writing to urge FIBA’s overturn of the headgear ban adversely affecting observant Muslim women wearing hijab.

Shirzanan is a leading nonprofit organization working to advance access to sport for Muslim women and girls worldwide. Our Athlete Ambassador Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, and innumerable others, have been directly restricted by your decision to keep the ban in place and thereby forced her to put a promising basketball career on hold.

The Olympic Charter states: “Sport is a human right.” FIBA is obliged to bring its policies that discriminate on the basis of gender or religion in line with the Olympic Charter and with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the last year, more than 130,000 signed a petition to end the exclusion of Muslim women from the sport of basketball. At last, FIBA is answering with a technical review and now a vote on Rule 4.4.2..

Rule 4.4.2 Players shall not wear equipment (objects) that may cause injury to other players.
The following are not permitted:
— Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery.

The FIFA (International Football Federation) ban was summarily overturned with a stroke of a pen, leading to millions of women and girls in Muslim majority countries enjoying access to sport. The parallel is exact and in no sport where hijabs have been allowed has there been any evidence of health or safety concerns. As a consequence of FIFA overturning its hijab ban a few years ago, there has been adequate opportunity to prove that the hijab offers no health or safety threat in a team sport that has similar exertion.

FIBA made a commitment to address Rule 4.4.2 after the two-year provisional period expired in September 2016. FIBA did not vote then nor in January 2017. Shirzanan and our allies urge FIBA to vote this May 2017 and reverse its discriminatory hijab ban with immediate effect.

We thank you for your attention to this critical topic.

Shirzanan co-founders, Mara Gubuan and Solmaz Sharif
Shirzanan athlete ambassador, Bilqis Abdul Qaadir
Athlete Ally executive director, Hudson Taylor

Human Rights Watch director of global initiatives, Minky Worden
Women Win U.S. director, Sarah Murray