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Thu 18 Sep 2014 12:05 PM

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Basketball's world body allows religious head coverings

Muslims and Sikhs will be allowed to wear the hijab and turban during a two-year trial

Basketball's world body allows religious head coverings
Image for illustrative purposes only.

Basketball’s world governing body has agreed to allow players to wear head coverings such as hijabs and turbans, during a two-year trial.

Previously, players could only wear a 5cm headband to control hair and sweat.

Muslim and Sikh players had argued the ban discriminated against those who wear head coverings for religious reasons.

“We welcome this policy change by FIBA [International Basketball Federation] because it allows Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious head coverings to take part in the sport that they love while maintaining their beliefs,” Council on American-Islamic Relations national communications director Ibrahim Hooper was reported as saying by AFP.

“FIBA should be congratulated for responding positively to all those who sought reasonable religious accommodation for athletes of all faiths.”

However, the trial will only apply in countries where the national basketball federation has sought permission from FIBA. Once approved, the federation will have to submit follow-up reports twice a year, AFP said.

The international board will evaluate the rule again in 2015 and determine whether testing at the lowest official international level should begin next summer. A full review will be done in 2016 on whether it will be a permanent rule change after the 2016 Olympics.

“It’s a start and the right move,” said Val Ackerman, a former WNBA president and proponent of the move who served on FIBA’s board from 2006 to this past August. “My read from being on the board is that there are places in the world where conforming to cultural dress norms is a precondition for being able to play. So if this is what it takes to open up opportunities for women to play the sport of basketball in those countries, it’s a huge plus.”

The trial follows a similar decision by football’s world governing body FIFA in 2012. It now allows female Muslim players to wear headscarves.

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