Swiss basketball body forbids Muslim headscarf

A Muslim woman has been told by Swiss basketball authorities she can’t wear a headscarf when she plays in league games. Sura Al-Shawk, a 19-year-old Swiss citizen of Iraqi origin, is to debut in a regional women’s league when the season starts next month. Her team, STV Luzern, sought permission for her to wear the scarf.

However, the Swiss association ProBasket said Thursday it follows the rules of FIBA, the world governing body. FIBA says the sport has to be neutral, forbidding religious symbols and headcovers. “If basketball is priority No. 1, international rules have to be respected,” ProBasket told the Swiss newspaper Neue Luzerner Zeitung. “If religion is priority No. 1, then you cannot play basketball.” It added that STV Luzern will lose its games by default if Al-Shawk plays with her headscarf.

Al-Shawk says she was surprised by the decision but has not said what she will do. “I really can’t understand what is happening here,” she told the newspaper. “I would not have thought it possible that in a country like Switzerland a headscarf in sport would pose a problem.”

Associated Press, 20 August 2009