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CAIR Welcomes Policy Change on Hijab and Other Religious Attire for Maryland Student Athletes

CAIR National logo(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/3/17) - The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation's largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed a change of policy by the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) allowing student athletes to wear religious attire, including an Islamic head scarf (hijab).

That change in policy came following CAIR intervention last month in the case of a Muslim student who was prevented from playing in a basketball game because of her hijab. The student was barred from the game after officials cited a rarely-enforced rule requiring “documented evidence” of a request for religious attire.

SEE: CAIR Encourages Policy Change, Diversity Training After Maryland Muslim Student Barred from Game Over Hijab

A March 21 MPSSAA notice to “Local Supervisors of Athletics, Member School Athletic Directors” stated in part:

“The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) herein grants an exception to the NFHS uniform standards for religious purposes. Any participant may wear a head covering, wrap, or other required religious garment which is not abrasive, hard, or dangerous to any player/others, and is attached in such a way that it is unlikely to come off during play.”

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“We welcome this change in policy, which will enable more Muslim high school students – as well as students of other faiths – to participate in athletic activities,” said CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Dr. Zainab Chaudry. “Religion should never be a factor in the ability to play sports. We encourage the National Federation of State High School Associations, of which MPSSAA is a member, to adopt a similar policy change.”

Chaudry noted the courage and advocacy of the Muslim student and her mother, which helped prompt this significant development.

Earlier this year, CAIR welcomed a move by the Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to allow athletes to wear religious headgear, including the Islamic head scarf (hijab).

SEE: CAIR Welcomes FIBA's Move to Allow Religious Headgear

CAIR has also called on the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) and USA Boxing to grant a religious exemption to current uniform regulations so that athletes may wear hijab during competition.

SEE: CAIR Asks International Body to Allow Minnesota Teenage Muslim Boxer to Compete Wearing Hijab

[NOTE: USA Boxing is the governing body for Olympic-style boxing in the United States and a member organization of the United States Olympic Committee. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is the worldwide governing body for the sport of boxing in all its forms.]

Many international athletic organizations have already modified their rules and policies to account for the various religious needs of participants. For example, over the past few years, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) have all lifted their respective bans on religious headgear, including hijabs.

In the past, CAIR helped a Muslim wrestler at the University at Buffalo in New York obtain a waiver from the NCAA to wear a beard he believes is required by his faith.

SEE: CAIR Helps NY Muslim Wrestler Obtain NCAA Waiver for Beard

In 2011, CAIR welcomed a decision by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) to modify its policy on competitor apparel to allow modest Islamic attire. The IWF policy change came following intervention by CAIR in the case of a Muslim weightlifter in Georgia who wished to compete while covering her hair, arms and legs.

Kulsoom Abdullah: Changing Policy

The Washington-based Muslim civil rights group is asking Muslim community members to report any bias incidents to police and to CAIR's Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or by filing a report at: http://www.cair.com/civil-rights/report-an-incident/view/form.html

CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

La misión de CAIR es mejorar la comprensión del Islam, fomentar el diálogo, proteger las libertades civiles, capacitar a los musulmanes estadounidenses, y construir coaliciones que promuevan la justicia y la comprensión mutua.

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CONTACT: CAIR Maryland Outreach Manager Dr. Zainab Chaudry, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., 410-971-6062; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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