Religious Exemption Expected For Minnesota Teen Who Boxes In Hijab

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Council on American-Islamic Relations says that a religious exemption is expected to be granted for a Minnesota boxer who was previously barred from events because she fights wearing a hijab.

Amaiya Zafar, a 16-year-old from Oakdale, will be allowed to compete wearing the traditional head covering under a new rule on religious exemptions that is expected to be formally adopted by US Boxing officials this summer, CAIR announced Thursday.

In November, Zafar was denied the chance to fight in a match in Florida because of her hijab. She was about to enter the ring when she learned she was disqualified.

A replay of that event isn’t expected to happen later this month, when Zafar is slated to fight in an event in Minneapolis.

If Zafar does make it into the ring on April 29 — under the new religious exemption policy — she would be the first boxer to compete wearing a hijab in a US Boxing-sanctioned event, CAIR says.

Under the new rule, religious coverings would be allowed only for local, non-advancing matches, CAIR says. Also, an exemption must be granted for every fight Zafar, or any other boxer in religious garb, wishes to compete.

Jaylani Hussein, the executive director of CAIR’s Minnesota chapter, called Thursday’s development a “positive step forward” in the struggle for religious freedom in Minnesota and across the nation.

In the past, CAIR has pushed several sports organizations – from boxing to basketball — to allow for religious coverings in competitions. Often, non-uniform coverings are restricted due to safety reasons.

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