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FIBA allow female basketball players to wear the hijab during matches

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The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has lifted a ban on all forms of headwear been worn in basketball matches allowing female teams to wear the hijab, a head covering worn by some Muslim women.

FIBA had cited safety concerns as reasons for banning all forms of headwear.

These rules had resulted in Qatar’s team from withdrawing from the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea.

One of the team, Amal Mohamed, told reporters: "We will not attend any games in this Asian Games unless the officials change their decision."

The new ruling, which comes from the organisation’s Mid-Term Congress in Hong Kong, will allow use of headgear providing certain conditions are met.

These are:

- it is black or white, or of the same dominant colour as that of the uniform;

- it is one same colour 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.

The ruling will come into effect on the 1st October 2017. This comes after a successful two-year trial period.

World football’s governing body FIFA also lifted a similar ban allowing the use of religious headwear in the sport back in June 2014.

The CEO of USA Basketball Jim Tooley told Associated Press that “everyone supported making the change” at the board meeting.

Nigerian born Kike Salihu Rafiu played basketball at NCAA level for Georgetown University but due to the rule was unable to play professionally, and had previously written on change.org: “This law is discriminatory and is denying us (hijabis) our fundamental human right to partake in a sport we love.”

Rafiu spoke positively about the rule change: "I'm really excited. Not just for us, but also for the younger generation. Now they don't have to worry about any type of ban, all they have to worry about is just playing basketball."

The rule will also allow Jewish players to play whilst wearing the yarmulke and Sikh players to wear the turban.

Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart said she hoped it would have a positive effect on for these athletes: “It’s huge for them to be able to feel welcomed on the court and play.”

The rule should allow for more inclusiveness in the sport. Athletes of different faiths will now be made to feel welcome and can compete without fear of punishment.

This can only be a positive. The players will feel better about themselves and can play better basketball as a result, hopefully resulting in a higher standard of play and thus more competitive and entertaining matches.

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