The Qatar women’s basketball team forfeited a match at the Asian Games after being refused permission to wear the hijab, saying they were taking a stand against a discriminatory policy against Muslim women.
The Qatari players were asked, in accordance with International Basketball Federation rules, to remove their Islamic headscarves in order to play against Mongolia.
However, the players refused, saying it violated their religious beliefs and they wanted to send a strong message to the sport’s governing federation that the ban was unfair.
“We have to take this stand,” said Ahlam Salem M al-Mana of Qatar. “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.”
A spokesperson for the Incheon Asian Games organising committee said that organisers had no alternative other than to declare a forfeit because, “the rule that the players broke is International Basketball Federation rule 4.4.2, which talks about uniforms and what players can wear.
“The technical official asked them to remove the scarf and they refused, so the game was forfeited by Qatar.”
An assistant with Qatar’s National Olympic Committee who declined to be named said they had not made up their minds about whether they would play against Nepal on Thursday. Qatar are also scheduled to play Khazakhstan on Friday and Hong Kong the following day.
Other sports at the Asian Games allow athletes to wear the hijab. All four members of the Iranian lightweight women’s quadruple sculls team wore hijabs as they rowed to a bronze medal on Wednesday.
Basketball remains one of the exceptions, though Fiba said earlier this month it had held discussions on the issue and was introducing a two-year “testing phase” on what players can wear.