Diversity Shunned Here

It’s ironic, isn’t it? For an international sporting event celebrated under the banner “Diversity Shines Here,” to simultaneously discriminate against athletes who adhere to religious modes of dress?

Yes, it’s ironic. And it’s wrong.

A couple weeks back, the Qatari women’s basketball team was forced to forfeit their opening match against Mongolia at the Asian Games in South Korea because their players refused to remove their hijabs.

Recall FIBA’s (non)decision from about a month ago allowing a trial period for athletes with religious headcoverings to take some roundabout route to request approval for the right to play, and note it did nothing to guarantee these players a spot in the Asian Games or any other international tournament.

The infamous Article 4.4.2 of FIBA’s Official Rules that prohibits players from competing while wearing headgear—save for a five centimeter or less headband—hasn’t been amended, and it will not be revisited until after the 2016 Olympic Games. The trial procedure put in place by FIBA seems more and more like a stalling tactic, instead of a genuine effort to open the game to players of all faiths.

The Asian Games, which concluded on October 4, boast the tagline “Diversity Shines Here,” but the women’s basketball team from Qatar was forced to forfeit and go home, with no chance to showcase their skills and no chance to compete. Teams from Afghanistan, Iran and other countries with hijab-wearing Muslim women on their roster also face the same kind of discrimination.

And so do others, like Sikh players Amjyot and Amritpal Singh of the Indian national team. After the incident in July at the Asia Cup, which had them uncomfortably replace their tubans with a headband, the two decided to make the terribly tough decision of going against their religious beliefs. According to C. Rajshekhar Rao from the AP, they cut their hair so they wouldn’t need to wear a turban to avoid breaking FIBA’s rules, all so they could compete in the Asian Games.

Forcing an entire team to forfeit because of the hijab, and two other players to go against their beliefs…really, what kind of twisted diversity is that?

It’s this kind: the kind of diversity an international governing body—with no consideration for people unlike themselves—control.

And that’s not diversity at all.