Recently, I was sent a link to an article about Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, a basketball player (a great one at that, Masha’Allah) from Massachusetts who went on to be the first Muslim woman to play in Division I of the NCAA while wearing hijab. After playing for Memphis and Indiana State, her next goal was to play professionally overseas. But a FIBA ban against “headgear” keeps her and any other person observing a religious headcovering—whether a turban, hijab, or yarmulke—out of affiliated leagues and tournaments.
I pitched this story to a couple of my editors at SLAM, and they told me if I could get Bilqis on the phone, then for sure it’d be a great story for the website. I wasn’t sure how to get in touch though, until I found an article about her on Ummah Sports. I followed Ummah Sports on Twitter, sent them a quick message, and within minutes, got Bilqis’ number to set up the phone interview.
When doing some more preliminary research, I found out another player named Indira Kaljo, who recently started hijab, faced the same problem. We too got in touch on Twitter and had a really nice phone conversation. Turns out, both Bilqis and Indira played each other while in college and were in touch regarding FIBA’s ban.
A few days ago, Kaljo launched a petition to demand FIBA changes its rules. There’s no telling what will happen, but we need to hold FIBA accountable for its discrimination as we would any other organization. Hijab threatens no player’s safety, and to quote multiple people about the ban—it’s straight up ridiculous.
On a different note: wishing everyone a blessed Ramadan! Let’s make the most of it, Insha’Allah.