Qatar pull out of basketball at Asian Games over head coverings ban

'We were told we would be able to participate in matches by wearing a hibjab' said Qatar women's basketball player Amal Mohamed A Mohamed after the the team forfeited their match on Wednesday in protest of a Fiba rule.

The Qatar women’s basketball team refused to play in their Asian Games group match against Mongolia on Wednesday after being refused permission to wear the hijab.

A spokesperson for the Incheon Asian Games said the players had been asked to remove the Islamic scarf before the game at Hwaseong Sports Complex but had refused.

“As far as I know it’s an issue of the international basketball federation, not the Asian Games,” the official told Reuters.

According to International Basketball Federation (Fiba) regulation 4.4.2, among the items that are prohibited on court are: “Headgear, hair accessories and jewellery”.

Qatari player Amal Mohamed A Mohamed said they had been assured they would be able to wear the hijab before they came to the Games in South Korea.

“Before attending the Asian Games, we were told that we would be able to participate in matches by wearing a hijab,” she said. “However, the organisers of the Asian Games said to us that players with the hijab cannot play today’s match.

“Since we can’t take that off to take part in the match because of our religion, we just forfeited the match with Mongolia.”

Mohamed was confused about why the scarf had been banned.

“I just don’t understand why we’re not allowed to play with the hijab. I don’t think the hijab is dangerous, and negatively influences the match or other players.

“We’ve attended many international competitions in Indonesia and China. Therefore, we will not attend any games in this Asian Games unless the officials change their decision.”

A Qatari official said the Fiba rule, which bans all headwear on safety grounds, ran contrary to Olympic principles on diversity.

About half of Qatar’s team wear the hijab.

“Fiba didn’t let our players play with the headscarves and so we had to withdraw from the tournament,” said Ahlam Al Mana, head of Qatar’s women’s sports committee.

“What happened today is against International Olympic Committee goals which are meant to include countries from different cultures, and also it’s against the slogan of the Asian Games in Incheon which is ‘Diversity Shines here’.”

She added that teams from other countries affected by the ban had not travelled to the Games in South Korea.

“I’m pretty sure that what happened today can change Fiba rules quickly,” Al Mana said.

“Of course the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) encouraged us to participate but this is a technical decision from Fiba. I hope in the near future they will allow us.”

No immediate comment was available from Fiba or the OCA.

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