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Teenage Muslim Boxer Wins Right to Compete in Hijab in United States

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Amaiya Zafar trains at Sir Cerresso Fort Boxing and Fitness in St. Paul, Minn. Photo: Caroline Yang for MPR News

Muslim boxer Amaiya Zafar has won the right to compete wearing a hijab in the United States after initially being barred from donning traditional dress during matches.

The 16-year-old from Minnesota challenged USA Boxing’s rules having been prohibited from wearing her hijab, long sleeves and leggings in the ring.

The Star Tribune reports that under a new USA Boxing exemption, Zafar can adhere to her religious beliefs rather than to a mandate that she wear a sleeveless jersey and shorts that cannot go below the knees.

“This is a big step,” her coach Nathaniel Haile was quoted as saying.

“She’s put a lot of labour into this.

“She earned the right to showcase her skills, and I’m happy for her.

“But it’s just the first step in letting her achieve her dreams.”

Zafar was disqualified from a local competition last year after being told the additions under her uniform were a safety issue.

Victory was instead automatically given to her opponent Aliyah Charbonier, who was uncomfortable with the decision and opted to hand the belt to Zafar.

“It’s not really a distraction for me what she’s wearing,” Charbonier told the Washington Post.

“She still had on gloves and headgear.

“I felt really bad for her.

“They didn’t give her a chance to fight.”

Zafar has aspirations to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, but she would have to persuade the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to allow her to compete in her preferred attire on the world stage.

When contacted by insidethegames, an AIBA spokesperson said the body would not be commenting on the matter at this moment in time.

Zafar is relieved she will not have to forfeit matches because of her clothing requirements.

“You get so invested,” she added.

“My weight is in the right place.

“My head is in the game.”

The news comes a month after sportswear giant Nike launched its new Pro Hijab, which is made of a lightweight, stretchy mesh polyester and comes in grey, black and obsidian.

Amna Al Haddad, a weightlifter from the United Arab Emirates, was one of the female athletes who was consulted on the design of the garment.

“Sports is one of the few platforms that brings people together, and the more big brands are noticing the impact of Arab Muslim female athletes, the more the inclusion there is – with everyone having an equal chance at sports,” she was reported as saying by The National.

Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first American athlete wearing a hijab to claim an Olympic medal at Rio 2016 after helping her country to women’s team sabre bronze.

She was joined on the team by Monica Aksamit, Dagmara Wozniak and Mariel Zagunis.

The US beat Italy 45-30 in the bronze medal match.

Russia won gold with Ukraine having to settle for silver.

By Daniel Etchells

Republished with permission from insidethegames.biz

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