FIBA to Rule on Hijab in Basketball Competition
On August 6, the women’s basketball tournament at the 2016 Summer Olympics will tip off in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with 12 teams representing 12 countries vying for the 12 gold medals awarded to the players on the squad that finishes No. 1.
Despite the presence of two Muslim-majority countries in the tournament (Turkey and Senegal), not one of the 144 players expected to compete in Rio will be wearing the traditional hijab headscarf on the court. And that’s not simply because none of them want to — but also because the rulebook does not allow them to.
FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, currently has a rule known as Article 4.4.2 that prohibits players from wearing any “headgear” or “hair accessories” on the court, with the exception of headbands that do not exceed five centimeters in width.
That prohibition includes headgear and accessories worn for religious reasons, such as hijab headscarves for Muslim women, yarmulkes for Jewish men and turbans for Sikh men.
That prohibition covers all basketball games, leagues and tournaments sanctioned by FIBA — which includes most professional leagues outside of the United States, the Olympics, the FIBA World Cup, and regional contests like AfroBasket, EuroBasket and the FIBA Americas tournament.
Thanks in large part to public and political pressure resulting from the efforts of Muslim female basketball players who took to social media protesting Article 4.4.2 with the hashtag #fibaALLOWhijab, FIBA finally announced in September 2014 that they would begin a two-year “testing phase” during which they would allow hijab and other previously banned headgear in some international competitions (such as the 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Youth Olympic Games) and review the results before voting whether or not to officially change Article 4.4.2.
Which brings us to August 2016. On a yet-to-be announced date in the same month that the Rio Olympics will begin, FIBA’s board will hold a meeting to vote on the headgear issue.
As the vote approaches, Muslim female basketball players are again using the power of the Internet and social media to urge FIBA to allow hijab headscarves and other religious headgear worn by basketball players around the world.