By Nick Butler at the Main Press Centre in Incheon

Qatar have pulled out of the Asian Games as the hijab ban continues ©Twitter"Regret" has been expressed by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) after Qatar's female basketball team pulled out of the Asian Games due to a ban on wearing headgear, although the governing body insist "all National Member Federations were aware of the Official Basketball Rules".

FIBA insist its regulations apply on a global scale, and are of a "purely sporting nature" and "without any religious connotations", although recent complaints have "led them to initiate a revision process".

But, after claiming to have been told beforehand they would be permitted to wear the hijab, the Islamic veil covering the body from the head to the chest, Qatar withdrew from their opening match yesterday against Mongolia when permission was refused.

Officials said they had not received any instructions from FIBA to allow head coverings, and were simply following the governing body's rules restricting the use of headgear, hair accessories, and jewellery.

The team did not appear for their scheduled match with Nepal this afternoon and, with no solution having been found, Qatari Chef de Mission Khalid al-Jabir confirmed the team had decided to withdraw from the entire competition and are preparing to return home.

FIBA communications director Patrick Koller told insidethegames they "regret that a delegation was sent to the Asian Games with uniforms that do not conform to the Official Basketball Rules".

He added: "All National Member Federations are aware of the Official Basketball Rules and of the applicable communication processes with FIBA (FIBA Asia in this case) prior to major international events should there be any doubt regarding uniforms or any other regulatory matter related to the event.

"FIBA will shortly liaise with all National Member Federations worldwide to inform them of the procedures to follow with respect to requests for exceptions to the uniform-related provisions of the FIBA Official Basketball Rules."

An increasingly divisive issue, the question of whether players should be permitted to compete wearing headgear has generated much attention in recent years..

Saudi Arabian judoka Wojdan Shaherkani competed, after an appeal, wearing a limited hijab at London 2012 ©Getty ImagesSaudi Arabian judoka Wojdan Shaherkani competed, after an appeal, wearing a limited hijab at London 2012 ©Getty Images

At London 2012 Saudi Arabian judoka Wojdan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shaherkani was eventually allowed to compete wearing a modified veil, despite International Judo Federation rules barring her from doing so, while karate and weightlifting are other sports to have recently lifted bans.

In April, in a landmark move, football governing body FIFA lifted a ban after a long-standing campaign led by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, stretching back to 2010, when the Iranian women's football team were banned from wearing the hijab at the Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore.

With competition at the Asian Games being conducted under the regulations of the respective International Federations, all four members of Iran's bronze medal-winning lightweight women's quadruple sculls rowing team wore hijabs yesterday, while Kuwait's Najlaa I M Aljerewi and Iran's Aghaei Hajiagha Soraya wore them in triathlon and badminton events respectively today.

FIBA has also begun a process to change its approach, and, during its last Central Board meeting earlier this month, the decision was made to initiate a test phase regarding uniforms.

"As a first step, the Central Board decided to relax the current rules regarding headgears in order to enable national federations to request, as of now, exceptions to be applied at the national level only," Koller added to insidethegames.

"This is so FIBA can assess how such exceptions to the Official Basketball Rules may have on the game of basketball, with International tests to be initiated as of summer 2015.

"No changes have been made to the current Official Basketball Rules which means that Article 4.4.2 is fully applicable for any international competition organised or endorsed by FIBA."

The Olympic Council of Asia has criticised this stance, urging sports governing bodies to "protect the rights of athletes to represent their country", amid an insistence that to not do so goes "against the ideals of the Olympic Movement".

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