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CAIR Welcomes National Athletic Association’s Decision to Permit Hijabs, Other Religious Headgear for Volleyball Players

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 2/10/2021) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) decision to permit volleyball players to wear religious headgear months after a Tennessee Muslim athlete was barred from a volleyball game because of her hijab, or Islamic head scarf.

SEE: ‘I thank God’ Tenn. volleyball player sparks national change on religious headwear rule

“We thank the National High School Sports Federation for doing the right thing,” said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. “This historic decision paves the way for Muslim athletes and other people of faith far beyond Tennessee to compete without fear that a referee will prevent them from competing simply because of their religion. We commend Najah Aqeel for her courage, and we commend the American Muslim Advisory Council in Tennessee for successfully representing for Najah and her family.”

Last September, a referee disqualified the freshman high school student Aqeel from a volleyball match because of a state rule requiring athletes who specifically wears hijab to receive prior authorization. The American Muslim Advisory Council of Tennessee and the ACLU of Tennessee called for both the state and national sports associations to revamp their rules. CAIR made the same demand at the national level.

Video: CAIR Calls for National Rule Change After Tenn. Muslim Athlete Barred from Game Over Hijab   

CAIR Asks National High School Sports Federation to Drop Religious Attire Authorization Requirement  

In October, CAIR met privately with the leadership of the NFHS and encouraged the federation to rewrite rules that required Muslim athletes obtain “authorization” in order to compete wearing a hijab. CAIR also proposed alternate language to that effect. The federation responded by pledging to review and seek approval for changes to the rule.

CAIR and other civil rights groups have successfully challenged similar bans on religious attire and accommodations in a number of sports.  

For example, CAIR helped bring about a ruling by the Switzerland-based International Basketball Federation (FIBA) lifting its the ban on religious head coverings and allowing players who wear articles of faith — including the Islamic head scarf (hijab) to participate in international competitions.  

SEE: CAIR Welcomes Implementation of New FIBA Policy Allowing Religious Headgear    

Many other athletic organizations have already modified their rules and policies to account for the various religious needs of participants.   

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  

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.  

In Minnesota, CAIR helped a teenage Muslim boxer take part in competition after previously being barred because she wears hijab.  

SEE: CAIR-MN Rep to Attend First USA Boxing-Sanctioned Bout with Muslim Boxer Wearing Hijab  

Washington, D.C.-based CAIR offers a number of guides with advice on providing legally-guaranteed religious accommodations in various settings, including “An Educator’s Guide to Islamic Religious Practices,” designed to help provide a positive learning environment for Muslim students.

SEE: CAIR Guides to Muslim Religious Practices  

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.    

La misión de CAIR es proteger las libertades civiles, mejorar la comprensión del Islam, promover la justicia, y empoderar a los musulmanes en los Estados Unidos.    


CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726,; CAIR Director of Government Affairs Department Robert S. McCaw, 202-999-8292,   

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