Press Releases

CAIR-Philadelphia Asks School District to Allow Sikh Athlete to Compete Wearing Religious Head Covering

(PHILADELPHIA, PA, 9/28/17) – The Philadelphia chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Philadelphia) today called on the Marple-Newtown School District in Newtown Square, Pa., to allow a Sikh high school soccer player to compete while wearing his religiously-mandated head covering.

A referee cited National Federation of High School Soccer rules to bar the Sikh player from the field Tuesday because he was wearing the head covering in compliance with his faith. School district officials have opened an investigation of the incident.

SEE: Referee in School Soccer Game Bans Marple-Newtown High School Sikh Player

“All student athletes should be able to compete while maintaining their religious practices,” said CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director Jacob Bender. “We urge the school district to implement a policy that protects the religious freedom of students of all faiths.”

CAIR recently collaborated with the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association to adopt a statewide policy change for public high schools after a Muslim teen was barred from competing because of her religious head covering, or hijab. The council is working with the National Federation of High Schools Association to implement a similar policy change at public high schools on a national level.

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

Earlier this year, CAIR’s national office in Washington, D.C., welcomed a new policy adopted by the Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) allowing athletes to wear religious headgear, including the Islamic head scarf (hijab).

SEE: CAIR Welcomes Approval of New FIBA Policy Allowing Religious Headgear for Basketball Players 

CAIR has also called on the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) 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

Following CAIR’s intervention, USA Boxing recently granted an exemption allowing the first-ever bout with a boxer wearing hijab.

Video: CAIR-MN Director Says Applauds Groundbreaking Muslim Teen Athlete

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:

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-Philadelphia Executive Director Jacob Bender, 917-660-3805,; CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,


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