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CAIR Welcomes Religious Exemption Granted for Minnesota Teenage Muslim Boxer’s Hijab

CAIR Welcomes Religious Exemption Granted for Minnesota Teenage Muslim Boxer Hijab(WASHINGTON, D.C., 4/20/17) — The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today welcomed a religious exemption granted to a teenage Muslim boxer in Minnesota who was previously barred from competition because she wears an Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

Amaiya Zafar, 16, from Oakdale, Minn., will be allowed to compete wearing hijab under a new rule covering religious exemptions that is expected to be formally adopted by the USA Boxing board of directors in June. Under the new rule, which applies only to local “non-advancing matched bouts,” a request for a religious exemption must be made for each event in which the boxer wishes to participate.

Zafar is scheduled to box at an event on Saturday, April 29, in Minneapolis, Minn. She will be the first boxer allowed to fight in a USA Boxing-sanctioned event while wearing hijab.

CAIR had repeatedly called for the Switzerland-based International Boxing Association (AIBA) and USA Boxing to grant a religious exemption to uniform regulations so that Zafar could wear hijab during competition.

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

“We welcome this partial victory and look forward to the day when athletes of all faiths may compete nationally and internationally while maintaining their religious principles,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper.

“The is a positive step forward in the continuing struggle for religious freedom in our state and nation,” said CAIR-MN Executive Director Jaylani Hussein.

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.  

CAIR is awaiting a 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 National Collegiate Athletic Association (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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