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

CAIR logoMuslim civil rights organization urges International Boxing Association to allow uniform exemption for bout on Saturday

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 10/19/16) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, is calling on the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) to grant a religious exemption to its uniform regulations so that a teenage Muslim boxer in Minnesota may wear her religious head covering, or hijab,†at a bout this Saturday in St. Cloud, Minn.

[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.]

In a letter to AIBA Acting Executive Director William Louis-Marie, with a copy sent to USA Boxing, CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote in part:

“In September 2015, AIBA and USA Boxing prohibited Amaiya Zafar, an American Muslim teenager who wears hijab, from taking part in the Golden Gloves competition in Duluth, Minnesota. Ms. Zafar wears a hijab and covers her arms and legs in accordance with her religious beliefs. More recently, USA Boxing again informed Ms. Zafar that she would not be permitted to participate in an upcoming competition on Saturday, October 22nd at St. Cloud Boxing & Wrestling Club because of her religious attire.

“We believe that AIBA’s rigid and inflexible uniform regulations fail to take into account the diversity of individuals who participate in boxing competitions worldwide. In particular, the failure to include sensible exemptions and accommodations to the uniform requirements unfairly excludes a significant group of Americans who adhere to daily religious dress practices, such as individuals of the Jewish, Sikh, and Muslim faith. Absent any concrete safety justifications, none of which have been communicated to us, such static and exclusionary rules are no longer tenable in a country that was founded upon religious freedom and tolerance.â€

CAIR’s letter noted that 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), International Basketball Federation (FIBA) and the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) have all lifted their respective bans on religious headgear, including hijabs. We therefore ask that you immediately revise your uniform rules and guidelines so that individuals, such as Ms. Zafar, may fully and equally participate in boxing competitions worldwide.â€

Last year, CAIR welcomed a decision by USA Boxing to request a waiver to AIBA’s policy preventing Muslim women and girls from taking part in competition while wearing hijab. To date, neither CAIR nor the teen’s family have been informed of any action being taken on that request.

SEE: CAIR Welcomes Group’s Request for Waiver to Rule Banning Minn. Muslim Teen Boxer’s Hijab

Video: CAIR-MN Helps Muslim Teen Boxer Seeking to Compete Wearing Hijab

CAIR is awaiting a soon-to-be-announced decision by the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) to lift its ban on religious headgear that bars Muslim, Sikh and Jewish athletes from competing on a professional level.

CAIR: 50+ Groups Release Open Letter to FIBA Urging Religious Rights for Sikh, Muslim and Jewish Athletes

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:

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-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein, 612-406-0070,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,

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