A Headdress Ban Disqualified Qatar’s Entire Women’s Basketball Team from International Competition

If the Asian Games really want to be a place where diversity shines, they should’ve opposed International Basketball’s ban on religious headwear.

Photo courtesy of Qatar Basketball Federation

When the women of the Qatari women’s basketball team arrived to the court for their game against the Mongolian team in the 2014 Asian Games on Wednesday, they were asked to remove their headscarves. Most of the women on the team wear the scarves in observance of their Islamic faith. According to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), the governing body that enforces the rules of international basketball games, the headscarves qualified as “headgear, hair accessories, and jewelry", which are banned under their rules. Refusing to remove their white headscarves, the women forfeited the game instead.

“We have to take this stand,” said Qatari player Ahlam Salem M al-Mana on Wednesday, after forfeiting the Mongolia game. “We are here to push the international association that all Muslim teams are ready to compete in any competition. We knew about the hijab ban, but we have to be here. We have to show everyone that we are ready to play, but the International Association is not ready.”

The women were hoping they’d be able to reach an agreement with FIBA that would allow them to wear the scarves. Though they were set to play Nepal on Thursday, the team withdrew from the Asian Games entirely when FIBA—who argue that the headscarves create unsafe conditions on the court—refused to bend the rules. Earlier this summer, FIBA also forced two Sikh players to remove their religiously mandated turbans before getting on the court for a game against Japan in the 2014 Asia Cup.

Ironically, the motto of the 2014 Asian Games is “Diversity Shines Here.” But organizers might find it difficult to promote diversity when their rules effectively target specific groups of people. Although sports organizations like FIBA cite safety as a primary concern, many Muslims interpret the strict enforcement of such rules as “discriminatory.”

But FIBA isn’t the first organization that has had to contend with the headscarf and other religious headgear deemed “unsafe” for sports competitions. Just this year, FIFA, the international governing body for the sport of soccer, finally lifted a ban on religiously mandated headgear from its rules and regulations.

Prior to this decision, FIFA faced widespread criticism for the headscarf ban in 2011, when the organization’s officials disqualified Iran’s national women’s soccer team from playing in the 2012 London Olympics because their headscarves violated the rule. For the Iranian players, however, the headscarf was not just a personal decision—it was required by Iran’s legal dress code for women.

FIFA declined to capitulate in the name of religious diversity, despite the fact that all the women were wearing tightly wrapped headscarves designed especially to address the safety concerns ban supporters espoused. Subsequently, such scarves have become available on the commercial market for female Muslim athletes. Capsters, a sporting headscarf designed in accordance with FIFA’s regulations on headgears, clings tightly to the wearer’s neck. The white scarves worn by Qatar’s team were similar in design. Human Rights Watch (HRW), in response to FIBA’s actions, said that if the scarves are indeed unsafe, it’s up to FIBA to prove it.

“In the case of basketball, it's difficult to see how a ban on the headscarf is anything other than an unnecessary restriction on the players' rights to religious freedom and personal autonomy,” HRW told Reuters.


When former Pittsburgh Steelers' center Mike Webster committed suicide in 2002, his death began to raise awareness of the brain damage experienced by NFL football players. A 2017 study found that 99% of deceased NFL players had a degenerative brain disease known as CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy). Only one out of 111 former football players had no sign of CTE. It turns out, some of the risks of traumatic brain injury experienced by heavily padded adults playing at a professional level also exist for kids with developing brains playing at a recreational level. The dangers might not be as intense as what the adults go through, but it can have some major life-long consequences.

A new PSA put out by the Concussion Legacy Foundation raises awareness of the dangers of tackle football on developing brains, comparing it to smoking. "Tackle football is like smoking. The younger I start, the longer I am exposed to danger. You wouldn't let me smoke. When should I start tackling?" a child's voice can be heard saying in the PSA as a mother lights up a cigarette for her young son.

Keep Reading Show less
via Gage Skidmore / Flickr

On Tuesday morning, President Trump tweeted about some favorable economic numbers, claiming that annual household income is up, unemployment is low, and housing prices are high.

Now, just imagine how much better those numbers would be if the country wasn't mired in an economy-killing trade war with China, bleeding out trillion-dollar-a-year debts, and didn't suffer from chaotic leadership in the Oval Office?

At the end of tweet, came an odd sentence, "Impeach the Pres."

Keep Reading Show less

October is domestic violence awareness month and when most people think of domestic violence, they imagine mostly female victims. However, abuse of men happens as well – in both heterosexual and homosexual relationships. But some are taking it upon themselves to change all that.

Keep Reading Show less

At this point most reasonable people agree that climate change is a serious problem. And while a lot of good people are working on solutions, and we're all chipping in by using fewer plastic bags, it's also helpful to understand where the leading causes of the issue stem from. The list of 20 leading emitters of carbon dioxide by The Guardian newspaper does just that.

Keep Reading Show less
The Planet
via International Labour Organization / Flickr and Michael Moore / Facebook

Before the release of "The Joker" there was a glut of stories in the media about the film's potential to incite violence.

The FBI issued a warning, saying the film may inspire violence from a group known as the Clowncels, a subgroup of the involuntarily celibate or Incel community.

Incels an online subculture who believe they are unable to attract a sexual partner. The American nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center describes them as "part of the online male supremacist ecosystem" that is included in its list of hate groups.

Keep Reading Show less