Support for Qatar’s women’s basketball team appears to be growing since last week’s row at the Asian Games, during which some players had to choose between taking off their headscarves or forfeiting the competition.
Citing their religious obligations, the team opted to withdraw from the tournament.
Since then, many in the sports world have been petitioning the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to amend its ban on allowing headgear, jewelry and hair accessories during tournaments.
ESPN columnist Johnette Howard is the latest to wade into the fray, arguing in a new column this week that sometimes not playing the game is the right thing to do.
“FIBA, the world governing body of basketball, should have long ago followed the lead of international soccer, boxing, weightlifting, judo and other sports and abandoned its backward rule that the hijab supposedly creates a safety hazard for players.”
Howard added that many female Muslim athletes have enough challenges to overcome when participating in international sports tournaments:
“At the 2012 London Olympics, athletes from Muslim countries — some of whom were sending female athletes for the first time — told their stories. They said they often have little or no place to train because there aren’t facilities for women. Many come from countries where Muslim women and girls are segregated from men in many social settings and forbidden from leaving the house without a chaperone. Physical education is not offered to girls, only to boys, in schools.”
But she was optimistic that taking a stand, as the Qatar team has done, will help change the rules for the better.
“It’s not a matter of if. Just when. It’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Muslim women have enough impediments to competing. FIBA needs to stop throwing an unnecessary roadblock in their way.”