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Monday Sep 28 2020
By
Web Desk

Muslim athlete disqualified from volleyball match over hijab in US city

By
Web Desk
Najah Aqeel plays volleyball in her hijab. CNN/via Geo.tv

A Muslim teenage girl says she was "angry" after a match referee, citing the school's rulebook, gave her a choice to either remove her hijab during volleyball or be disqualified. She chose to sit it out.

According to CNN, first-year student Najah Aqeel studies at Valor Collegiate Prep in Tennessee's Nashville city where, while warming up for a match on September 15, she was told by her coach that the has referee refused to let her play with her headscarf.

The "oppressive" move has led to calls from people across the state to change the rule, which Aqeel says "has no business being in the casebook".

I don't see why I need approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion.

Speaking to CNN, the 14-year-old said: "I was angry, sad and also shocked just because I had never heard of the rule before that." The rule, she added, "singles out hijabis".

"I don't see why I need approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion."

According to the referee, however, the casebook rule makes it obligatory for any athlete who wears a hijab to seek prior permission from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA).

Aqeel said she neither faced this issue during the previous matches she played nor did she ever acquire an authorisation.

In its volleyball casebook, the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH) says athletes "must have authorization from the state association to wear the hijab or other types of items for religious reasons as it is otherwise illegal".

We are heartbroken and deeply sorry that the young lady was disqualified from the match for wearing the hijab.

However, NFSH Executive Director Karissa Niehoff explained that since uniform rules are not hard ones and that exceptions can be made, "more common sense should have been demonstrated by the adults".

"We are heartbroken and deeply sorry that the young lady was disqualified from the match for wearing the hijab," Niehoff told CNN.

"The correct approach the referee should have taken is to have allowed the young lady to play and point out after the game that next time she needs to submit a letter."

Regardless, Niehoff underlined that the NFSH was preparing to introduce new language in order to ensure that religious headwear would no longer be an issue in the future, unless and until it posed some kind of risk to the player or other athletes.

Valor Collegiate Academies Athletic Director Cameron Hill, on the other hand, said that while the school itself was unaware of the rule, the guidelines were "antiquated and oppressive".

This rule was used to humiliate a 14 year old student in front of her peers.

"We want our state to make it understood that there is no need for Muslim women to get permission to wear their religious headwear," Hill told CNN. "We stand in solidarity with all of our scholars and families and their freedoms to express their religion freely and openly."

The executive director of the American Muslim Advisory Council, Sabina Mohyuddin, issued scathing remarks over the incident, saying it was an issue of Constitutional rights.

"Why should Muslim girls, who want to follow their constitutionally protected right, have an extra barrier to fully participate in sports in Tennessee?" Mohyuddin said.

"This rule was used to humiliate a 14 year old student in front of her peers. It was traumatizing to say the least!"