FIBA Bows to Global Protest Against Ban on Turban

Introduces significant change in rules to the delight of Indian Sikh players

NEW DELHI, September 17, 2014: Kalgidhar Society’s concerted campaign across the globe against World Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) ban on Sikh hoopsters playing with their turbans on, has borne fruit.

FIBA has decided that players will be allowed to wear religious head coverings, such as hijabs or turbans, on a trial basis in some competitions. FIBA’s central board has voted to allow a two-year testing phase that would let players wear head coverings.

FIBA’s central board will evaluate the rule again in 2015 and determine whether testing at the lowest official international level should begin next summer. A full review will be done in 2016 on whether it will be a permanent rule change after the 2016 Olympics.

Kalgidhar Society, a Baru Sahib (Himachal Pradesh) – head quartered charitable organization aggressively promoting education and social reforms in rural areas, took up the cudgels against FIBA in August when three Sikh players of two Indian basketball teams were forced to remove their turbans, an important article of their faith, in tournaments held in China and Qatar recently.

Apart from taking up the case with FIBA abroad and basketball authorities in India, Kalgidhar Society’s spokesperson Ravinderpal Singh Kohli filed an online petition against FIBA’s discriminatory policy through Change.org onJuly 26. The petition has been supported by around 70,000 persons from across the globe so far. Sports legends like Milkha Singh, Bishen Singh Bedi and eminent personalities from the cultural domain like Daler Mehndi, Yo Yo Honey Singh etc. too have backed the campaign.

Of late, Mr. Kohli has been vigorously lobbying in USA for the withdrawal of the discriminatory and illogical rule. He tied up with several opponents of racial discrimination including the Council on American-Islamic Relations National Communications, the fabled Dr. Keri Michele Cox who successfully fought for the removal of similar ban in American football, and others like activists Mara Gubuan and International Basketballer Indira Kaljo.

On the home front, Kalgidhar Society organized peaceful protest matches involving turban-wielding students of its 129 Akal Academies spread across villages in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. September 10 witnessed participation by Anmol Singh, India’s U-18 basketball player who was made to remove his turban at Doha in Qatar on August 20.

Most delighted by FIBA’s latest decision are the two Indian Sikh players who were subjected to racial discrimination in China. A visibly enthused Amjyot Singh said, “I am indeed proud of the support provided by Kalgidhar Society – Baru Sahib and Change.org together. We have been saved from any humiliation in the future.”

Amritpal Singh gushed, “I woke up to a surprise this morning with the great news that FIBA has reversed the turban ban. How can a turban pose any danger to fellow players? I am grateful for the support from all quarters. Let Sikhs play.”

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