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FIBA Bans Bilqis because of her Hijab

FIBA Bans Bilqis because of her Hijab
Springfield's Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir is unable to play pro basketball overseas due to FIBA rules prohibiting her wearing a hijab

Playing basketball, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was always the best player on the court. The Springfield native finished her high school career as the leading scorer in Massachusetts state history. During her senior season at New Leadership she earned the Goodnow Award and was named the Gatorade state player of the year.

Abdul-Qaadir went to college and excelled in the classroom and on the basketball court at Memphis and Indiana State. And now, this exceptional student athlete, a young woman who represented her community in the best possible way sits idle, unable to pursue a professional career because of politics.

"As of right now I'm really in a holding pattern because of FIBA," Abdul-Qaadir said. "I think in many ways the key word in FIBA is international. I think that's what upsets me most."

FIBA (International Basketball Federation) defines the rules that govern international basketball, and one of the organization's rules forbids women from wearing hijab, the traditional body covering Muslim women wear. FIBA said it wants basketball to remain religiously neutral, and for Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, that means no chance to play professionally overseas.

"International means everyone, and FIBA isn't inclusive because of its ban on wearing my hijab," Abdul-Qaadir said. "People have this impression of Muslims like they're afraid of us. What some people in the Muslim religion are doing has nothing to do with the rest of us. We're not all the same, just like any religion isn't the same. FIBA says it wants to remain religiously neutral but this is discriminatory."

"I have no plans to change the way I am so I can play basketball. I've come so far and my religion has taken me this far. I'm not going to change."

"There was an all Muslim women's team that made it to a championship game that FIBA was sponsoring and they wouldn't let them play. It just doesn't make any sense to me. It's going to take time for them to change the rules and I'm not going to wait around until they do. I have no plans to change the way I am so I can play basketball. I've come so far and my religion has taken me this far. I'm not going to change."

The 5-foot-4 Abdul-Qaadir has a masters degree in coaching and seems to have a strong connection to her hometown.

"I'd like to find a job somewhere, maybe coach on the high school level, Abdul-Qaadir said. "I think I'd like to do that. Even in the next couple of years. I know a place like Commonwealth Academy in Springfield doesn't have a team. They have girls there that might want to play basketball. I think I could go to a place like that and make a difference. We'll see how things go. Right now I'm just trying to weigh my options."

No one, not even Abdul-Qaadir herself, knows what the future holds. But so far wherever she's gone and whatever she's done, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir has made a lasting impression.

"I learned a lot along the way," Abdul-Qaadir said. "In college you meet a lot of people that aren't like you. I've had a lot of stepping stones, and I really think that everything happens for a reason."

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