Today, Athlete Ally in partnership with Shizanan, 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 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 Player
Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing, 2016 Olympian
Ruqsana Begum, UK, World Muay Thai Champion
Soolmaz Abooali, USA, Traditional Karate
Shamila Kohestani, Former Afghanistan Football Player
Hajar Abulfazil, Afghanistan Football Player
Mona Seraji, Iranian Snowboarder and Surfer
Kulsoom Abdullah, USA, Olympic Weightlifter
Amaiya Zafar, USA, Boxer
Noorena Shams, Pakistan Squash Player
Amani Ammoura, Jordan, Cyclist
Rehab Shawky, Egypt, Cyclist
Kiran Khan, Pakistan, Swimmer, ’08 Olympics
Raha Moharrak, Saudi Arabia, Mountain Climber
Karima Christmas, Indiana Fever
Toccara Ross, FIBA athlete
Eli A. Wolff, ’96 & ’04 Paralympic Soccer
Nick Rogers, President Minnesota United FC
Mary Harvey, ’96 US Women’s National Team Member
JoAnna Lohman, Washington Spirit
Chris Kluwe, Former NFL Punter, Minnesota Vikings
Martina Navratilova, Tennis
Yael Averbuch, USWNT, Kansas City FC
Billie Jean King, Tennis
James Blake, Tennis
Carrie Sheinnberg, ’94 Olympic Skier
Esther Lofgren, 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, Rowing
Beverly Yanez, Melbourne City FC
Lindsay Kagawa Colas, FIBA Certified Agent
Michael Skolnik, Policy Director, Global Grind
Layshia Clarendon, WNBA, Atlanta Dream
Elizabeth Williams, WNBA, Atlanta Dream
April Ross, Beach Volleyball Olympian (2012 & 2016)
Breanna Stewart, WNBA Seattle Storm and Team USA (’16 Olympian)
Kenneth Faried, NBA, Denver Nuggets
Courtney Vandersloot – WNBA, Chicago Sky
Husain Abdullah, Former NFL Free Safety, Kansas City Chiefs
Hamza Abdullah, Former NFL Defensive Back, Tampa Bay Buccaneers