At the UNI World Congress in Liverpool, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, an American professional basketball player, received a Freedom from Fear Award for her long campaign to allow women to wear hijabs. After a three year ban from playing, Abdul-Qaadir succeeded in overturning the International Basketball Federation’s widely condemned ban on wearing a hijab during games.
To a standing ovation, Abdul-Qaadir, was presented the award by UNI Global Union President Ann Selin and General Secretary, Christy Hoffman. In an emotive speech dispelling anti-Muslim rhetoric, Abdul-Qaadir described the journey of her campaign, which not only fought for equality for all basketball players, but also fought against bigotry and discrimination towards Islam.
“My goal is to create safe spaces for young Muslim girls to play basketball. Muslim women belong in all spaces and we deserve a seat at the table,” Abdul-Qaadir explained.
Abdul-Qaadir’s campaign brought together UNI’s World Players Association, Human Rights Watch, Shirzanan (an advocacy group for women athletes), Athlete Ally and basketball player associations from around the world including UNI affiliates the National Basketball Players Association and EU Athletes.
As the fight against racism and xenophobia continues, Abdul-Qaadir’s strength in the face of adversity serves as inspiration for all trade unionists. In the words of former US President, Barack Obama, “Bilqis is not just an inspiration to Muslim girls, but all of us.”