Protecting Your Right to Compete

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On April 20, 2017, CAIR secured a religious exemption for Amaiya Zafar, a 16-year-old female American Muslim boxer in Minnesota who was previously barred from competition because she wears an Islamic head scarf, or hijab.

Amaiya Zafar, who’s from Oakdale, Minnesota, will be allowed to compete wearing hijab under a new rule covering religious exemptions that was formally adopted by the USA Boxing board of directors in June, 2017.  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.

See USA Boxing’s guide: Religious Exemptions – Mandates Required by Your Religious Affiliation
See Mashable article: Amaiya Zafar's Mission to Break Stereotypes

Zafar was then scheduled to box at an event on Saturday, April 29, 2017 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She made boxing history by becoming 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 the press release: CAIR Asks International Body to Allow Minnesota Teenage Muslim Boxer to Compete Wearing Hijab

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.

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.

See: 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.

Read about how Kulsoom Abdullah American Muslim female weightlifter from Georgia, is changing policies:

Also read about how Ja’Nan Hayes, an American Muslim varsity high school basketball player from Gaithersburg, Maryland helped change her school district policy allowing her to play basketball with her hijab:

TAKE ACTION: If you experience any discrimination in sports or anywhere else, please call CAIR's Civil Rights Department at 202-742-6420 or file a report online.

All of CAIR’s civil rights services, including the help of our lawyers, is provided at zero cost to community members and we work. As always, we keep all of our clients’ information confidential—including their telephone number, address, email address and any other identifying information—unless they clearly give us permission to use it.


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