Earlier in the Rio Olympics, Ibtihaj Muhammad made history by becoming the first American woman to compete at the Olympics wearing a hijab, the head scarf Muslim women wear for religious purposes. You will see a number of women at the Rio Olympics competing in hijabs, but unfortunately, none of them will play basketball. However, thanks to the work of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, that may be finally coming to an end.
For many years, FIBA, the International Basketball Federation, did not allow players to wear hijabs or Sikh turbans while playing. This led to a lot of blowback, including from CAIR, which has been working with two American Muslim athletes who were affected by the ban. In 2014, CAIR and others got FIBA to agree to a two-year testing program to allow players to wear hijabs in some events. Now, FIBA will make its final decision on the matter, likely later this month.
CAIR, naturally, is calling on FIBA to lift the ban permanently for all competitions. A Muslim athlete, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, started a Change.org petition to get FIBA to allow hijabs. So far, the petition has more than 90,000 signatures. Even FIFA, far from the most progressive organization, lifted its ban on hijabs and turbans, so hopefully FIBA will follow suit. The lifting of this ban has been a long time coming, and when FIBA makes its final decision, ideally it will make the right one.