By Peter Rutherford
INCHEON South Korea (Reuters) - The Qatar women's basketball team refused to play in their Asian Games group match against Mongolia on Wednesday after being refused permission to wear the hijab.
A spokesperson for the Incheon Asian Games (IAGOC) said the players had been asked to remove the Islamic scarf before the game at Hwaseong Sports Complex but had refused.
"As far as I know it's an issue of the international basketball federation, not the Asian Games," the official told Reuters.
According to International Basketball Federation regulation 4.4.2, among the items that are prohibited on court are: "Headgear, hair accessories and jewelery".
Qatari player Amal Mohamed A Mohamed said they had been assured they would be able to wear the hijab before they came to the Games in South Korea.
"Before attending the Asian Games, we were told that we would be able to participate in matches by wearing a hijab," she said. "However, the organisers of the Asian Games said to us that players with the hijab cannot play today’s match.
"Since we can’t take that off to take part in the match because of our religion, we just forfeited the match with Mongolia."
Mohamed was confused about why the scarf had been banned.
"I just don’t understand why we’re not allowed to play with the hijab. I don’t think the hijab is dangerous, and negatively influences the match or other players.
"We’ve attended many international competitions in Indonesia and China. Therefore, we will not attend any games in this Asian Games unless the officials change their decision."
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)