Qatar takes a stand in hijab row at Asiad

Wed Sep 24, 2014 10:43am EDT
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By Peter Rutherford

INCHEON South Korea (Reuters) - The issue of religious freedom took center stage at the Asian Games on Wednesday when Qatari women forfeited a basketball game after refusing to remove the Islamic head scarf, dealing another blow to an event that trumpets diversity and inclusiveness.

Organizers of Incheon's Asian Games, which have welcomed 9,500 athletes from 45 countries across the length and breadth of the world's most populous continent, said their hands were tied by International Basketball Federation (FIBA) regulations.

Qatari player Ahlam Salem M. Al-Mana said the team had decided to send a strong message to the governing body by refusing to take the court against Mongolia.

"We have to take this stand," she said. "We knew about the hijab ban, but we have to be here.

"We have to show everyone that we are ready to play, but the international association is not ready."

The row overshadowed another lively day of action in Incheon, where China's gold rush hit full stride and South Korea tightened their grip on second place ahead of rivals Japan.

After five days of competition, China top the medal table on 59 golds, followed by the Koreans on 26 and Japan on 20.

China's dominance in the pool continued with four more titles, including a fourth gold for teenager Shen Duo, while Japan's Kosuke Hagino also won his fourth title of the Games.   Continued...

Qatar's women's basketball team leaves the court after forfeiting their women's basketball game against Mongolia at Hwaseong Sports Complex during the 17th Asian Games in Incheon September 24, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Min/Sports Chosun