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FIBA Ruling On Hijab Ban Is Too Little, Too Lame

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While many of the activists and supporters backing her cause are in a celebratory mood, Indira Kaljo still faces the somber possibility that her career has come to a premature end. Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, meanwhile, accepts the likelihood that her career may never begin.

Indira Kaljo has played pro basketball in Ireland and Bosnia.

Indira Kaljo has played pro basketball in Ireland and Bosnia.

Kaljo, a Bosnian-American from California, and Abdul-Qaadir, an African-American from Massachusetts, were once rivals on the basketball court. Today, they are teammates facing a challenge that is bigger than the game; one that impacts Muslim women and girls all over the world.

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And on Sept. 16, they received the bad news–masked cleverly as good news–that they are still denied equal access to the sport they love because of the hijab headscarves they choose to wear as part of their Islamic faith.

The Rule

FIBA, basketball’s international governing body, has in its official rulebook a brief section known as Article 4.4.2. It contains a list of items and accessories that cannot be worn on the court because “they may cause injury to other players.” That blacklist includes “headgear, hair accessories and jewellery.” Headbands that are no more than five centimeters in width are permitted.

What it means is that during FIBA-endorsed competition–international tournaments such as the Olympics and World Cup, and just about every professional league on the planet outside of the NBA and WNBA—Muslim women cannot play while wearing hijab headscarves, Sikh men cannot play while wearing turbans or patkas, and Jewish men cannot play while wearing yarmulkes. If they are for some reason allowed on the court by officials, their team could be forced the game.

Kaljo is an overseas pro who has played two seasons in Ireland and Bosnia. Until recently she did not wear hijab on or off the court, but since deciding to cover earlier this year, she has been unable to sign with a pro team.

Abdul-Qaadir was a high school phenom who wore hijab on the court back then and made history in 2010 when she became the first NCAA Division-1 college player to wear hijab on the court (Abdul-Qaadir played for the University of Memphis at the time, and during that season she met Kaljo, who played for Conference USA foe Tulane University). Following Abdul-Qaadir’s senior season at Indiana State University, her pursuit of a pro contract was cut short because she couldn’t find a team willing to sign a player that could cause them to forfeit any wins she helped earn.

“Honestly, I pray for [Abdul-Qaadir} sake that this rule will be changed before too long,” Kaljo said when I first interviewed her in July for a feature on Ummah Sports. “I got my years in playing pro, and may Allah forgive me for not covering, but she deserves the opportunity to play because she’s a very gifted basketball player.”

The Resistance

FIBA’s anti-hijab rule has been in existence for years and has been challenged on occasion, but only recently has it come under widespread international scrutiny.

Abdul-Qaadir talked about her plight in an interview with Ummah Sports in May, which caught the attention of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). Kaljo then reached out to Ummah Sports and CAIR to tell her story. Both women contacted FIBA on the matter, and against the advice of one FIBA official, Kaljo started an online petition to force the organization to eliminate its discriminatory headgear rule.

Eventually the United States Olympic Committee and the Indian government got involved, among others, and finally FIBA scheduled a review of Article 4.4.2 for its August 27 board meeting in Spain. That meeting did not produce a ruling, but after a follow-up meeting weeks later, FIBA made its announcement on Sept. 16.

The Ruling

FIBA will begin a two-year “testing phase” to explore lifting the headgear ban.

During that time, national federations must petition FIBA to allow players to wear prohibited headgear. If the petition is approved, the federation then must submit follow-up reports twice a year. Meanwhile, FIBA will allow players to wear non-headband headgear in its 3-on-3 basketball competitions, similar to the 3-on-3 tournament held at this summer’s Youth Olympic Games in China.

Article 4.4.2 will be evaluated again in 2015 and 2016, though a decision on editing or eliminating the rule will likely not happen before the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil.

The headlines sounded good. “FIBA relaxes rules on headgear” … “FIBA to allow hijab, turbans in competition” … “FIBA rules players can wear religious headgear.”

But upon further review, what has really changed? And why could it take so long to right an obvious wrong?

Kaljo and Abdul-Qaadir still cannot play pro basketball in a FIBA-endorsed league without being in violation of the anti-hijab rule. The language in FIBA’s official statement seems clear that the trial period only applies to national federations, not individual pro leagues. So while Abdul-Qaadir could play while wearing hijab if she were on Team USA, she still can’t play while wearing hijab for even a lower-division pro team in, say, Germany or Italy. Kaljo is eligible to play for the Bosnian national team—which has been a longtime goal of hers— but she still cannot play in, for example, the Bosnian pro league that she played in last season.

The Reaction

“We are deeply disappointed with FIBA. It shouldn’t take two years to make what should be a simple decision to eliminate a discriminatory practice,” U.S. congressmen Ami Bera and Joe Crowley said in a joint statement following FIBA’s announcement. “There is no evidence that turbans or religious headgear pose a threat to players, and it’s time for FIBA to do what the rest of the sporting world is doing and let Sikhs play.”

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was an all-conference point guard at Indiana State University.

Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was an all-conference point guard at Indiana State University.

As the congressmen point out, this would not be an unprecedented or groundbreaking move for FIBA to simply lift the ban. Soccer’s international governing body, FIFA, lifted their own anti-headgear rule in 2014 following a two-year trial run. The governing bodies for weightlifting and track and field also allow religious head coverings, and allow Muslim women to compete while wearing full hijab.

No one is asking FIBA to make a bold move to stand out from the crowd. All FIBA is being asked to do is fall in line and do the right thing.

CAIR’s official response to FIBA’s ruling was primarily positive.

“We welcome this policy change by FIBA because it allows Muslims, Sikhs and others who wear religious head coverings to take part in the sport that they love while maintaining their beliefs,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR National Communications Director, in a statement. “FIBA should be congratulated for responding positively to all those who sought reasonable religious accommodation for athletes of all faiths.”

That is understandable. As a political activism organization, CAIR has to, well, play the political game. With so many sensitive issues on their plate in what can be a very anti-Muslim climate in America, showing dissatisfaction with small victories like the FIBA ruling would soon earn them a label (albeit an unjustified one) of being impossible-to-please whiners and complainers.

Well, I’m going to whine and complain, if that’s what critics want to call it. And so is Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir. While FIBA’s ruling is a step in the right direction, it is a step that is too small, too slow and undeniably weak.

Imagine if we were talking about a woman’s right to vote. Or the racial integration of public schools. Who would be happy with a two-year testing phase that didn’t even cover all elections or all levels of education? Imagine a ruling that essentially said, “Sorry, sister, you can’t vote for the President. But you can vote for city council until we determine you won’t hurt yourself.” Or one that included a two-year trial run of integrating elementary schools but didn’t include middle and high schools. (Actually, if you want to get even the most stereotypically anti-Muslim individual on your side, make a similar argument for a hypothetical ban on an American’s right to bear arms.)

Hypotheticals aside, we are at this moment seeing how quickly a sports industry heavyweight can fix policies and procedures, with the National Football League’s sudden changes to pre-existing norms regarding domestic violence and drug use. FIBA is capable of moving just as quickly to solve its problems.

“I feel like this is just [FIBA’s] way of putting it off to the side and taking some of the heat off,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “All of a sudden they had all of these organizations joining in the movement, so it seems like they just did this to get the fire off their back. ‘Let’s not make a permanent decision, let’s make it a trial.’”

Abdul-Qaadir, who has returned to Indiana State to finish her master’s degree and work as the Director of Operations for the women’s basketball program, says she has been playing basketball while wearing a hijab headscarf for about a decade covering her high school and college career. Through hundreds of games and thousands of practices, she says the hijab has never caused an injury to herself, to a teammate or to an opponent.

Kaljo, who recently accepted a job offer to teach physical education in Saudi Arabia, played in a (non-FIBA) California summer league this year while wearing hijab, and similarly caused no problems for herself or other players.

“Alhamdulillah, I’m glad they made the decision because I understand change doesn’t always happen fast, but I still don’t know what this means,” she said.

I think it means FIBA still doesn’t get it. Or perhaps it means the organization’s desire to not look like they are totally wrong is being put above the overdue equal rights of at least three religious groups impacted by Article 4.4.2. The other alternative is that FIBA actually wants to continue blatantly discriminating against Muslims, Sikhs and Jews, but optimistically I don’t think that’s the case.

“At first I was excited when I saw the headline [on Sept. 16], but after I read the whole thing, I think people are being misled,” Abdul-Qaadir said. “It’s not over. I’ve been getting all of these congratulatory emails and texts, but as far as I know I still really can’t do anything. … Nothing’s really changed.”

“I’m starting to just, I don’t know, to like not even want to be part of (FIBA),” Abdul-Qaadir adds. “Even if they were to change the rule soon, do I want to play for this organization that didn’t want me to play in the first place?”

It’s not too late for FIBA to change its stance, re-review Article 4.4.2, and simply eliminate the prohibition on religious headgear before the start of the upcoming winter basketball season. There’s nothing that says the weak and insulting “testing phase” cannot be scrapped immediately in favor of a making a stronger statement against religious discrimination.

In this case, following the reactionary example of the NFL would actually be the right thing to do.

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Amaar Abdul-Nasir was born and raised in Seattle, Wash., and received his B.A. in Journalism from Seattle University. A sports writer and editor by trade, Amaar founded UmmahSports.net, which focuses on Muslim athletes and health and fitness in the Muslim community, following his conversion to Islam in 2013.

14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ilm

    September 20, 2014 at 12:33 AM

    SubhanAllah, that’s sad. I go to a school which doesn’t have a lot of Muslims in it and I faced a similar problem, but on a very small scale, playing on my school’s basketball team.

    There’s always an issue when Muslims start going into careers/fields that don’t have a lot of Muslims in them, but things get easy over time. May Allah help these women.

  2. Avatar

    Sister_in_Islam

    September 21, 2014 at 4:28 PM

    Where there is a will InshaAllah there will be a way

  3. Avatar

    gopithomas

    September 21, 2014 at 10:19 PM

    FIBA can institute any rules. If Hijab is not allowed, either remove hijab if you want to play, or keep it and then get out of the team.

    • Avatar

      Ismail

      September 22, 2014 at 5:53 AM

      You sound like a person who complains about ‘dem immigrants who c’mere and steal our jerbs’.

    • Avatar

      Amaar Abdul-Nasir

      September 24, 2014 at 2:12 AM

      Just because it’s a rule doesn’t mean it’s right. For the time being, the women and men impacted by this FIBA rule are following it — that’s why Bilqis Adul-Qaadir and Indira Kaljo are not playing pro basketball right now — but they are also free to challenge the rule and try to get it changed. If everybody just went along with the existing rules and never tried to change them, we’d still have Jim Crow laws, women wouldn’t be allowed to vote, police could search your home for whatever reason they wanted, etc.

  4. Avatar

    tariq Abdul-Qaadir

    September 23, 2014 at 8:14 PM

    Just like I remember as a kid saying I wish I was white. Now it’s religion and skin color.

  5. Pingback: Qatar team forfeits at Asian Games in hijab protest | Ummah Sports

  6. Pingback: Thursday morning links: Qatari women protest FIBA's hijab ban, Canada gears up for World Championships - Sports News Time

  7. Pingback: Thursday morning links: Qatari women protest FIBA's hijab ban, Canada gears up for World Championships | Sports Discovery

  8. Pingback: Thursday morning links: Qatari women protest FIBA's hijab ban, Canada gears up for World Championships - Sports News Online

  9. Pingback: Thursday morning links: Qatari women protest FIBA's hijab ban, Canada gears up for World Championships - Current Sporting News

  10. Avatar

    ISMAIL OCHIENG

    September 26, 2014 at 8:38 AM

    Allah Subhanahu wa taa’la tells us in the Noble Qur’an “They the disbelievers will not be content with until you follow their ways”!

  11. Pingback: Muslim Matters: Shaykh Qasim Hatem | Ummah Sports

  12. Pingback: Abdul-Qaadir attends White House meeting with Barack Obama | Ummah Sports

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#Life

What Repentance Can Teach You About Success

When losing weight, one piece of advice you’ll hear often is the following – if you fall off your eating plan one day, pick yourself back up and think of the next day as a fresh start.

Annoying, isn’t it?

You’ll hear this advice from people who have “made it” – they’ve lost a lot of weight, their lives have changed, and they’ll tell you to stick through it, and you’ll be like, yeah, I have, I tried, and I keep failing. I keep trying, I can’t sustain the motivation, I have life factors, I have stuff going on that makes this difficult.

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And you’re right.

You don’t have millions of dollars, a dedicated personal trainer and chef, the free time and lack of commitments others do, the lack of sleep, the injuries, or personal life circumstances that advantage others, nor do they have those that disadvantage you.

That’s not the point.

When you make a mistake, if you run through the process of regret, repentance, and retrying to do the right thing, Allah (swt) is pleased with you. And if you keep failing, repenting, and trying again, and again, and again, until you die, Allah keeps forgiving you.

The process of both recognizing your weakness, of getting out of denial, and humbling yourself and not thinking yourself so high and mighty has its own sobering effect. Not only does it help you in dealing with that atom’s weight of arrogance you don’t want to meet Allah (swt) with on the Day of Judgment, it helps make you a better human being, a more compassionate one, a more empathetic one, when calling others away from mistakes.

I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect. Perfection is only for Allah (swt). But we’re trying. And the process of recognizing your weakness and at least attempting to rectify it means that maybe you’ll sin a little less, maybe you’ll still not invent excuses for mistakes and you’ll teach others, “Hey man, I know this is a sin, I know this is wrong, I hope you can do better than me.” And maybe they do change, and you’re both better for it.

Maybe in trying and failing again and again, what you end up doing is coming a little bit closer to success, and that process of trying and failing is the teacher you needed to get you out of your weakness and to then help others do likewise. Maybe that learning process serves you in succeeding elsewhere down the road in other treacherous turns and trials of life.

Whether it’s in losing weight, fixing broken relationships, pulling away from a heavy nafs addiction (eg pornography), don’t ever put yourself mentally in a position where “you’ve lost” and “you may as well give up” because “there’s no hope for me”. Don’t identify yourself by your failures.

So then, what is the point?

The point isn’t that you hit your goal perfectly. The point is that give your best, even with the little that you have, and that is good enough for you and for all of us. Ask Allah (swt) to help you better yourself, and in these 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah, increase in your du’a, cry to Him for help, in whatever area of life it is you’re trying to improve.

And whatever you fail at, don’t fall off for weeks on end. Acknowledge your mistake, own it completely and take full responsibility. Try to figure out where you went wrong in your process, get help from others if you need to. Forgive yourself, and don’t resign yourself to an identity based on your mistakes.

Never get tired of failing, getting knocked down, and picking yourself back up and trying to do and be better again.

It’s always a brand new day tomorrow.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 18: When the Angels Surround Us

Now that we have learnt about Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and her sa’i, let’s now talk about when the angels surround us.

Do you know that every time we sit together and remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we are not alone in our meeting? We have very special visitors, and these visitors love to hear us praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)and thanking Him. 

Question: Who can tell me who these visitors are?

Yes! They are angels! Can anyone name some angels for me?

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We have Angel Jibril 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) who has delivered every message to every Prophet since the beginning of time. We also have our angels on our left and right who write down our deeds.

Question: Does anyone know the name of the angel that is in control of the weather? 

His name is Angel Mikai’l. 

There are so many gifts that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grants us when we gather together and remember him. Four things happen every single time! I want you to pay close attention to this hadith, because I’m going to ask you what those four things are after I read it. 

Are you ready?

‏لا يقعد قوم يذكرون الله عز وجل إلا حفتهم الملائكة، وغشيتهم الرحمة ونزلت عليهم السكينة، وذكرهم الله فيمن عنده‏

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the angels surround them (with their wings), (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.”

Question: Can you believe that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes mention of your name when you make mention of His? What do you think it means when “tranquility descends upon us?” Do you feel how calm your heart is? 

That is a gift from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and He tells us that our hearts find rest in His remembrance:

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured” [Surah Ar-Ra’d; 28] 

 

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