Lifting of ban follows end of ban in Football and U.S. Army; safety standards will have to be met.

Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has decided to end its 20-year-old ban on players from wearing religious headgear. Once the ban is lifted, it will allow players to wear hijabs, turbans and yarmulkes. Although the ban was placed not with an intention to hurt any religious sentiments but for safety purposes, complaints were filed recently alleging that the rules were preventing people of certain faiths from participating in the games.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), together with 50 other inter-faith organizations jointly requested the FIBA to revise its rules so that Muslim, Jewish and Sikh players could participate in the games at a professional level. This was backed by an intense, two-year long study, which brought out a report on the impact of exceptions that were allowed at domestic level. Based on these exceptions, the Board has made the decision to change its existing rules to allow people to wear their religious headgears, provided the meet the necessary safety standards.

FIBA said, as per the study results, change was imminent and that a mandate has been issued for the Technical Commission to come forward with a proposal, would allow people to participate with their religious headgear on. This proposal will be presented to the Mid-term Congress in May.

Maryland outreach manager Dr. Zainab Chaudry believes all players, irrespective of belief should be allowed to participate in playing. Dr. Zainab adds this move will be significant in allowing Jews and Muslims to also be part of the games, which they haven’t been able to do for a very long time thanks to outdated and discriminatory practices.

Recently, the U.S. Army allowed soldiers to wear religious headgear while serving. Now, Sikhs, Muslims and Jews are allowed to wear their turbans, hijabs and yarmulke while in the army. Their religious headgear, however, will have to match the safety guidelines that the army has set.

The International Football Association Board allowed women players to wear hijabs while playing and allowed men to wear head covers which matched their jerseys and posed no danger starting in 2012.

U.S. women’s coach, Geno Auriemma, praised the move by saying it does away with the forces that dissuades talent from joining the team. Auriemma believes that issues such as religion, politics and ethnicity should not enter sports, and anything which encourages participation is a welcome move. 

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