Maldives women’s team forfeit basketball tournament over headscarf ban

The Maldives’ women’s basketball team refused to play without their headscarves, forfeiting the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) first under 18 three-on-three tournament held in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this week.

“The girls were really upset, we are as well. We came prepared based on the uniform the team wore in the last two games,” Maldives Basketball Association (MBA) President Ahmed Hafiz told Minivan News today (May 27).

“According to FIBA, the head cannot be covered during play. We have to go with FIBA rules if we want to play,” Hafiz stated.

The Maldives’ women’s basketball team has been allowed to participate in past tournaments while wearing burugaathah (headscarves), however the decision to make an exception to the rules “depends on the officials”, according to Hafiz.

“Qatar held a tournament two weeks back and there were some complaints that the Qatar team was wearing headgear, so FIBA was forced to apply the rules,” Hafiz explained. “Maybe that is the reason this issue came up for the Maldives [in this tournament].”

FIBA Asia has designed a jersey for Muslim players, but still needs to obtain FIBA international approval, according to the MBA.

“FIBA Asia is working on this because lots of Muslim countries are involved. Now the are suggesting to FIBA International to change the rules to allow headgear,” said Hafiz.

The Maldives’ under 18 women’s team is planning to participate in the upcoming Asian Youth Games, to be held this August in Nanjing, China, according to Hafiz.

“However, [the choice] is up to the players. We will not force them,” he said.

“This is a big problem for the game and will ruin the development of women’s basketball for a place like this, because there are still very few girl players and most wear the burugaa,” MBA Secretary General Arif Riza told Minivan News today.

“FIBA is pretty clear about the rules, so although the team has been allowed to play twice before, this was a mistake of ours also,” said Riza.

The primary issues of concern to MBA are that FIBA permitted the Maldives’ team to wear headscarves during tournaments in 2011 and 2012 as well as allowed other teams to play in violation of different dress code rules, such as wearing t-shirts instead of jerseys, according to Riza.

“Immediately after President Hafiz arrives [from Thailand] we will discuss the issue and write FIBA a letter,” said Riza.

“They should be allowed to have the right to play,” he declared.

FIBA Response

The headgear ban is “a part of FIBA Rules, but not a policy,” FIBA Asia Secretary General Hagop Khajirian told Minivan News Thursday (May 23).

“It has nothing to do with headscarves as such, but more to do with the regulations which stipulate that the playing gears of players has to be such that it may not cause any harm or hindrance to themselves or opponent players,” explained Khajirian.

Although these rules have “been the case always”, FIBA is currently reviewing the headscarf restriction.

“There have been requests from many nations regarding this. And the FIBA Asia Central Board, in its meeting [held] on April 24 in Kuala Lumpur, resolved to send a study paper to FIBA to be taken up for further consideration,” said Khajirian.

The choice to cover

While Maldivian women’s participation in basketball is slowly increasing, netball is popular nationwide. Although there are key distinctions between the two sports – such as no dribbling in netball – the rules are very similar, according to a skilled Maldivian netball player of nine years and student coach of six years.

“Wearing the burugaa while playing netball is no problem for us, it is not difficult and we’ve never experienced any injuries [from the headscarves],” she explained on condition of anonimity.

“Every person has the choice of whether or not they choose to wear the burugaa. However, it is a religious thing, in Islam Muslims have to cover, it is the right thing,” she continued.

“Although some are not wearing [headscarves], that is their choice,” she added.

The netball enthusiast agreed with the Maldives’ women’s basketball team decision to not remove their headscarves and forefit their game in the recent FIBA three-on-three tournament.

“Their choice was the correct one, they do not want to break religous rules,” she said.

“FIBA should change their rules if they want Maldivians to participate, because so many [women] are wearing burugaathah. They have to change so everyone can compete,” she added.

Burugaa bans

A senor researcher from the internatonal NGO, Human Rights Watch, previously highlighted the discriminatory issue of banning women from wearing headscarves, in a 2012 article “Banning Muslim Veil Denies Women a Choice, Too”.

“The sad irony is that whether they are being forced to cover up or to uncover, these women are being discriminated against. Banned from wearing the hijab – a traditional Muslim headscarf – or forced to veil themselves, women around the world are being stripped of their basic rights to personal autonomy; to freedom of expression; and to freedom of religion, thought and conscience,” wrote Judith Sunderland.

“Denying women the right to cover themselves is as wrong as forcing them to do so. Muslim women, like all women, should have the right to dress as they choose and to make decisions about their lives and how to express their faith, identity and moral values. And they should not be forced to choose between their beliefs and their chosen profession,” notes the article.

Muslim women’s basketball players in Switzerland and Baharain have also faced controversial opposition to their refual to remove their headscarves.

The Baharaini team was “lauded” for their refusal to remove their headscarves during an international competition in 2009, according to Gulf News.

Meanwhile, Sura Al-Shawk, a 19 year-old STV Luzern basketball player, was denied permission to play while wearing a headscarf by the Swiss basketball association ProBasket in 2010, reported the Associated Press.

ProBasket told the Associated Press it followed FIBA rules and that wearing the headscarf while playing basketball “could increase the risk of injury and the sport has to be religiously neutral”.

In July 2012, the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) overturned a headscarf ban, which was put into place in 2007, after a yearlong campaign led by FIFA vice president Prince Ali of Jordan, reported the Associated Press.

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Maldives overcome Singapore in second ACC Twenty20 tournament match

The Maldives has bounced back from defeat in its opening match of the Asian Cricket Council (ACC’s) Twenty20 elite cup tournament in Nepal with a five wicket victory over Singapore yesterday (March 27).

Having previously been defeated by host nation Nepal by 76 runs on Tuesday (March 26), the Maldives secured a narrow victory over Singapore during its second match of the tournament, held at the cricket ground at Pulchowk’s Institute of Engineering, the Himalayan Times publication has reported.

According to the ACC, the Maldives will now face Hong Kong on Friday (March 29), before playing its final Group A fixture against Malaysia on Sunday (March 31).

The Maldives squad is competing in the group for one of two spots available at the World Twenty20 Qualifier tournament to be held in the UAE in November.

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Maldives Under-23 football squad crowned champions in inaugural Mahinda Rajapaksa tournament

The Maldives Under-23 football squad has won the first ever Mahinda Rajapaksa International Football Tournament after defeating Pakistan 2-1 during the final of the four-team regional competition held Sunday (December 9) in Sri Lanka.

The Maldives, who have been beaten only once in the tournament, triumphed in their final match after two second half goals within the space of three minutes by Waheed Rilwan and Abdullah Asadullah proved sufficient to secure victory against Pakistan, according to local media.  The match was held at Sri Lanka’s Jayathilake Stadium in Nawalapitya.

Although Pakistan’s Saeed Ahmed threatened a late upset after scoring from a rebounded penalty kick, the Maldives was able to hold on after its opponents squandered a number of chances to bring the score even, according to Pakistan-based publication The News International.

On its way to the finals, the Maldives squad won their first game 3-0 against hosts Sri Lanka, before beating co-finalists Pakistan 1-0 in their second match. Having already qualified for the final, a 1-0 defeat to Bangladesh ended the Maldives unbeaten run in the tournament – however the loss proved to be a temporary setback for the squad’s title aspirations.

Speaking to local sports website Maldives Soccer.com following their victory on Sunday, Maldives coach Istavan Urbanyi praised his young players as being “heroes” for their efforts during the competition.  Urbanyi also thanked an estimated 200 fans who were said to have travelled to Sri Lanka for the tournament’s final match.

“Its amazing. I really appreciate the support by the Maldivians who made the atmosphere like home for us,” he said.

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Baa Atoll to host Bodu Beru tournament

Baa Atoll and Four Seasons will host a Bodu Beru tournament in honor of Baa Atoll’s recent designation as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

The ‘Baa Youth Bodu Beru Challenge’ will take place on 17 and 18 November 2011 on Kamadhoo. The competition is open to Bodu Beru groups with 16 to 26 members aged 15 to 25 from the 13 islands of Baa Atoll.

Four Seasons has teamed up with Male-based cultural arts institution Varutha for the event. The institution was founded in 2007, when the ‘Meenaz’ bodu beru group noticed the need for a formal, organised means of sustaining Maldivian arts culture.

Varutha dancers will lead a 10-day workshop from September 23 to October 3. Two drummers from each competing group will have the opportunity to hone their skills and explore new bodu beru beats and methods.

Bodu beru is said to have made its first appearance in the Maldives in the 11th century AD, allegedly by sailors in the Indian Ocean. Bodu beru groups typically consist of 15 performers, including three drummers and a lead singer. Using a small bell, a set of drums known as the ‘bodu beru’, and an onugandu – a small piece of bamboo with horizontal grooves, which is scraped – performers create a lively rhythm for dancing.

Varutha’s co-founder, Sham’aa Abdullah Hameed [Anna], expressed appreciation and support for the youth arts event.

“The tournament reflects our shared mission to reconnect local youth with their rich cultural heritage by restoring, developing and incorporating tradition into the rapidly evolving Maldivian music scene. We’re looking forward to a successful workshop and an exciting two days of competition.”

Landaa Giraavaru’s General Manager and Regional Vice President, Armando Kraenzlin, said UNESCO’s recognition of the environmental value of Baa Atoll inspired the competition.

“UNESCO World Biosphere Reserves rely on optimum social, economic, and cultural conditions for environmental sustainability. We’re delighted to be working with Varutha to help strengthen the respect for cultural values amongst the Baa Atoll youth, while giving them an opportunity to contribute to their home island’s own sustainability.”

The winning team will receive Rf 100,000 (US$6485) towards a community project, and Rf 10,000 (US$650) for themselves. The team will also be invited to an awards ceremony on Landaa Giraavaru island on 28 December.

Team Application Forms and full Tournament Rules and Regulations can be downloaded at www.facebook.com/baa.boduberuchallenge.

All applications must be submitted via email by 30 September 2011 to [email protected]

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Maldives’ football champs invited to inaugural South Asia club tournament

The Maldives is expected to be among eight nations taking part in an inaugural club football tournament scheduled for later this year under the auspices of the South Asian Football Federation (SAFF).

This season’s Maldivian champions will be invited along with their counterparts in Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Afghanistan to face off in a competition taking place in Dhaka, Bangladesh, between September 1 and September 15. These teams are expected to be joined by the top two sides from the national leagues of India and Bangladesh.

According to India-based newspaper, the Calcutta Telegraph, local governing body the All India Football Federation (AIFF) has claimed to have agreed to the scheduled dates for the tournament, yet added that the actual details of the competition are still to be decided.

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