By: ClaireForClarity, Guest Blogger
“Diversity Shines Here,” was the slogan of The 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea. However, these three words were soon sorely tested by a controversy, which unfolded on televisions around the world.
I was stopped in my tracks, as I watched my television, located atop the counter in my kitchen. Unfolding on the screen was an interesting drama thousands of miles away. I was stopped by the yelling and wild hand-gesturing of a woman wearing a Hijab (headscarf worn by Muslim women for religious purposes). She was obviously very upset as she confronted a game official who seemed a bit overwhelmed. After a few minutes I learned Qatar’s Women's Basketball Team were told they had to remove their Hijabs if they wanted to play. The women refused to remove their headscarves and officially withdrew from the games.
The games were purported to celebrate diversity and inclusivity but fell short of this goal when they asked the Qatari women to remove their headscarves before playing basketball. The game official was doing his job when he told the women their Hijabs were not allowed. He had no control to change the rules that were implemented way at the top. The official rules state no “headgear, hair accessories, and jewelry” are allowed. The Qatari women knew about this rule but decided to enter the games anyway. They wanted to make a point. Apparently, they wanted to test the diversity claim that was made in slogan.
Standing in my kitchen thousands of miles away, I was extremely frustrated and impressed at the same time. How could a renowned body like FIBA (The International Basketball Federation), the umbrella organization in charge of the games, not understand the significance of the Hijab? Is it a reflection of broader attitudes towards Muslims in Europe where the federation is located? A Hijab is not worn like a hat or a headband; it is not worn as a fashion statement. The Hijab is an expression of religious fealty. To put it in the same category as headgear or a hair accessory is to denigrate the custom, which is revered and passed down from generation to generation by so many Muslim women. They have enough to deal with when their own rejects them for their gender. I learned shortly after this report that Saudi Arabia refused to let women play in the games. Taking a stand like this on an international level was no small feat for the Qatari women.
There are those who might say the women set themselves up for this outcome because they knew the rules. However, the fact that they were willing to risk all the hard work they put into play a game they obviously love, says they are willing to fight for true inclusivity and diversity no matter the cost. Small pebbles thrown in large ponds still produce undulating ripples, which cause changes to the pond's surface. The actions of the Qatari women are courageous in the face of an immovable force such as FIBA.
I learned much later, after the incident, that female Archers from Iraq, Indonesia, and Iran were allowed to wear their Hijabs. This only raised further questions regarding the decision to let the Qatari women withdraw because of their headscarves.
Obviously, “Diversity Shines Here,” was not applicable to this year’s games. Maybe FIBA officials will put more thought into the true meaning of their next slogan when the games head to Indonesia in 2018.
It's important to be informed about global cultures and their impacts on girls and girls' experiences. What do you think of the officials' ruling? How can we be more open to diversity in general?
ClaireForClarity is a Mount Holyoke College, Frances Perkins Scholar class of 1999. After she graduated she chose to take care of family and home. Claire manages her daughter’s online home school program, blogs and watches Korean dramas in her spare time. For more visit my blog ClaireForClarity HERE.
image via bbc.com