Over 50 interfaith and advocacy organisations have called on the International Basketball Federation to lift its ban on religious headgear that bars Muslim, Sikh and Jewish athletes from competing on a professional level and “defies human rights norms”.
“No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport.
“Muslim women and Sikh men seeking to participate in sporting activities like anyone else should not face superficial and arbitrary barriers to that participation,” these organisations said in a letter to Horacio Muratore, President of the Switzerland-based Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) or International Basketball Federation.
“We understand FIBA is expected to announce a permanent decision in the near future on whether the ban on religious accommodations will be enforced. We believe this rule, as it stands, violates basic religious rights of athletes like (Darsh Preet) Singh and Abdul-Qaadir, and countless others, and defies international human rights norms,” said the letter.
FIFA’s International Football Association Board has acknowledged the religious rights of athletes by changing its rules to allow hijabs and Sikh turbans, it said yesterday.
“We request that FIBA follow suit and amend this discriminatory policy to allow athletes of all faiths to compete while maintaining religious principles,” said the letter, which among others have been signed by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIRA) and the Sikh Coalition.
CAIR spokesperson Zainab Chaudry said the open letter, signed by dozens of diverse national and local organisations, indicates the “strong support for religious accommodation in sports”.
“Athletes of all faith traditions are inspired by their religious beliefs to work hard to qualify and compete in professional-level sports. We respectfully urge Mr. Muratore and FIBA to change the discriminatory policy and let all athletes play,” he said.
“The dozens of organisations signed on to this letter all agree that FIBA’s ban has an unfair and discriminatory impact on Muslim, Sikh and Jewish players,” said MPower Change Campaign Manager Mohammad Khan.
“Other international sporting organisations, such as FIFA, allow religious head coverings. FIBA should join them and allow athletes of all backgrounds to participate in professional and international basketball,” he said.
“We urge FIBA to end its discriminatory ban and allow Sikh, Muslim and Jewish athletes to compete at the highest level,” said Sikh Coalition Director of Law & Policy Arjun Singh.