September 17, 2014 (Washington, DC) – The International Basketball Federation (FIBA) has decided to relax its ban on religious headcoverings in limited circumstances as part of a “trial period.” The Sikh Coalition and SALDEF will follow-up with FIBA to understand exactly how the new rules will apply to Sikhs, but we have already identified several major problems:
- Religious exceptions still cannot be granted for international matches. Thus, Sikh athletes may still be forced to remove their turbans if they participate in matches outside of India.
- FIBA will wait until 2015 to decide whether to allow religious exceptions for matches at the “lowest official international level.” Thus, it is not clear whether Sikh athletes would be allowed to wear turbans during tournaments and championship games.
- FIBA will decide whether to implement permanent changes to its religious accommodation policy in 2016. Thus, after FIBA completes its two-year “trial period,” it still reserves the right to ban religious headcoverings.
Justice Delayed is Justice Denied
The Sikh Coalition believes that FIBA’s religious headcovering ban must be lifted immediately and permanently for all matches—domestic and international—and that FIBA should stop using bureaucracy as a pretext for discriminating against religious minorities.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” said Sapreet Kaur, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition. “FIBA is telling religious minorities that their human rights will be protected on a part-time basis. This is unacceptable. People are entitled to full-time protection of their human rights, including the right to practice their religion. FIBA is just adding insult to injury.”
The Sikh Coalition urges its supporters to continue recording protest videos using the hashtags #CallFoulonFIBA and #LetSikhsPlay. Until FIBA stops discriminating against religious minorities, we will continue our fight.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges Sikhs everywhere to practice their faith fearlessly.