ANOC chief expects hijab ban to be lifted
BANGKOK - Agence France-Presse
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. REUTERS PhotoBasketball's lifting of a controversial ban on headgear including religious scarves is only a "matter of time," a senior Olympic official said Thursday following a row at the Asian Games.
Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Association of National Olympic Committees, said he had been assured by talks with FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann that the Islamic hijab headscarf and other headgear would soon be allowed on the court.
The basketball body's ban on headgear more than 5 centimeters (2 inches) wide caused controversy at the September-October Asian Games when Qatar's women's team forfeited their matches after being told they could not wear hijabs.
"It's more related to culture than to religion and if [the headgear is] secure, as FIFA has done it and other federations, I expect basketball will do it," Sheikh Ahmad told reporters at an ANOC meeting in Bangkok.
"We have discussed it, they have their opinion, we have our opinion. We found a road map, they already announced that some club events will start it, after this they will evaluate it.
"I think will be only a matter of time and (when) the mechanism has been decided," added the sheikh, who is also president of the Olympic Council of Asia, the body behind the Asian Games.
FIBA's ban on headgear has already been relaxed at the national level and the body has said tests could be carried out at international competitions next year.
FIBA has denied any "religious connotation" to its rule, which is aimed at improving safety. The approach conflicts with other sports including football, which ended a similar ban earlier this year.
FIBA's stance earlier ran into trouble in July when two Sikh players from India were reportedly forced to remove their turbans at the Asia Cup in China and had to tie their hair with elastic bands.
In August, reports also said that India's Anmol Singh was ordered to take off his patka head-covering at the FIBA Asia U18 Championship in Doha.