American Muslim basketball player, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir, who led a four year-battle against an International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rule that banned religious head coverings on the court has been denied permanent residency in Canada and will have to go back to the United States.
Abdul-Qaadir and her husband, A.W. Massey had moved to London, Ontario from Tennessee three years ago and set up an academy for girls (Dribbling Down Barriers) and she coached sports at an Islamic school in the city.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) said Abdul-Qaadir doesn't "meet the requirements for immigration to Canada."
“After waiting an entire year, my Canadian permanent residency application was refused because the @CitImmCanada’s officer felt that my job duties as Athletic Director at the Mosque/Private School in London ON, wasn’t adequate work,” said Abdul-Qaadir on her social media post.
“God works in the best of ways, and I trust His plan. But sheesh…it sucks for someone else to judge your work from behind a computer screen and say that it wasn’t adequate. Back to America we go.”
“I honestly didn’t expect this type of response to my tweet about my permanent residence application. I’m truly thankful for all of the love, support, and help I’m being offered.”
Abdul-Qaadir’s work permit was not renewed in August and she hasn't been able to work since then.
“For the past 2 years, I brought organized sports into the Muslim community, used sport to bridge gaps between the youth in the community, helped the school’s teams win championships for the first time ever, and gave our Muslim girls a safe space to play, but that wasn’t enough,” she said.
About Abdul-Qaadir: From a young age, Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir knew she wanted basketball to be a part of her life. After first picking up a ball at the age of four at a local YMCA, Bilqis’ love for the game began. Living in a practicing Muslim household, Bilqis was to follow her religious beliefs as she grew older. She began wearing a hijab, a traditional head covering for Muslim women, and practiced modesty on the court by covering all skin except her hands.
She became a standout at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, Mass. where she excelled on the court and in the classroom. As class valedictorian, Bilqis also set the Massachusetts state record for both boys and girls, with 3,070 points scored – breaking Connecticut and WNBA star Rebecca Lobo’s previous state record of 2,740. She was also named the state’s 2009 Gatorade Player of the Year and a McDonald’s All-American nominee.
She parlayed her skills into a full ride scholarship to the University of Memphis where she played four years (2009-13) and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in exercise science. During her freshman year at Memphis, she was invited to the White House for Ramadan feast and was acknowledged by President Barack Obama as the first Muslim woman to play covered in collegiate basketball.
Her goal was to continue playing professionally in Europe, but quickly ended due to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rule prohibiting headgear larger than five inches. Unwilling to stray in her beliefs, Bilqis chose faith over basketball and advocated for Muslim women and girls in sport. After earning her master’s degree in May 2015 at Indiana State, Bilqis sought to inspire young Muslim women through sport as an instructor and motivational speaker.
In May 2017, FIBA overturned the hijab ban. Bilqis continues to use her voice for equality and acceptance in sport.