A rule change from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) means Muslim women will now be allowed to wear hijabs, the traditional religious headdress that was previously forbidden, while playing the sport.
FIBA said in a statement that cultural garb in some regions “were incompatible” with the basketball governing body’s prior headgear rule, preventing those athletes from playing the game. The move comes three years after FIFA, the regulatory body for soccer, lifted its ban on the head covers.
In its announcement, FIBA pointed to a “historical moment” that occurred recently in Iran, when women in the coverings played a test game. It marked the first time men there “witnessed a women’s sporting event in person,” according to the group.
That raises an interesting question: In these regions (and religions) that are antagonistic toward women’s rights, does the hijab represent or perpetuate that oppression?
There’s no simple answer. It’s true that, in some families, women are forced to wear a hijab, and I will always oppose that. But it’s also true that, to other women, a hijab is a choice. And not a “choice” where they don’t really have the option of saying no, or one that they’ve been indoctrinated into accepting since childhood. I mean a legitimate decision. If they want to wear it, who are we to stop them?
By preventing these women from wearing their desired clothing, using basketball games as leverage, aren’t we just as bad as those who force women to wear it?
That’s FIBA’s thinking. The group officially allowed the hijab… with some conditions.
The provisions of the new rule mean that headgear is allowed when:
– it is black or white, or of the same dominant color as that of the uniform;
– it is one same color for all players on the team (as all accessories);
– it does not cover any part of the face entirely or partially (eyes, nose, lips etc.);
– it is not dangerous to the player wearing it and/or to other players;
– it has no opening/closing elements around the face and/or neck;
– it has no parts extruding from its surface.
Those caveats seem perfectly reasonable.
FIBA has made the right move in allowing Muslim women who choose to wear a hijab to participate in basketball. To take away that right from them because, as some critics say, wearing the hijab leads to a form of “passive terrorism,” is ludicrous.
(Image via Shutterstock)