My name is Asma Elbadawi, I am a basketball player, coach, artist and spoken-word poet from Sudan. I am also an activist: I am campaigning for the International Basketball Federation to permanently lift the ban on headgear to allow players who wear turbans, hijabs, and other religious headgear to play, and to apply this rule to all levels of basketball; in order to create an even playing field for both men and women of all faiths such as Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims.
I am a British Sudanese Muslim that grew up in Bradford, England. Being the youngest of two children, I naturally took a huge interest in the things my brother enjoyed. Spending the majority of my time playing sports.
However, after completing secondary school, I stopped playing sports. At the time, I was under the impression that it was inappropriate for Muslim women to participate in sports for the simple reason that I had never seen a Muslim female athlete wearing a hijab in the media.
Therefore, it seemed like playing anywhere outside of the school environment and level was an unachievable goal.
It is important to note that there are some misperceived misconceptions that Islam prohibits sport for women. On the contrary, it promotes a positive outlook toward the health and wellbeing for both genders.
It requires that certain procedures are followed and a certain level of modesty is required. Therefore having Muslim girls visibly playing sports on our screens and competing in basketball will impact the lives of many young girls because playing basketball will become an achievable goal.
I started playing basketball in 2010, after almost three years of not playing any sport and feeling lost. I decided I wanted to learn how to play a sport I have always wanted to try. It was the first team sport that really challenged me. I was unaware of how both mental and physical the game is.
But the life skills I have gained from playing it, I would never have gained had I not played for a team that respected my religious beliefs and allowed me to wear the hijab.
Playing basketball has opened up many opportunities for me — it has allowed me to travel, to play alongside women from all over the world, to strengthen my interpersonal and people skills. I have been able to obtain coaching qualifications that have allowed me to coach in different settings.
From females at university level in the UK to both young men and women in a secondary school in rural Tanzania, I was complimented on by both staff and students. And the fact that I was not a male coach was notable — it gave young girls something new to aspire toward, while the boys were able to interact with and accept females in less traditional roles.
I completely believe that by lifting the ban, FIBA will demonstrate its dynamic and proactive approach to driving change — resulting in more positive Muslim, Sikh and Hindu athlete role models in the media.
This would make basketball feel accessible to young males and females who have headwear from various faiths to unify us all under the banner of the sport.
Bearing in mind the current climate and misrepresentation of Islam in the media, I completely believe that by lifting the ban, FIBA will demonstrate its ability to drive change, by creating another narrative of Muslims.
Please take the time to sign the petition. Your support is both appreciated and valued. Thank you!
Sign the petition here.
For more information about FIBA, click here.
Written by Asma Elbadawi