A highschool athlete was disqualified from taking part in at her faculty’s volleyball recreation after a referee cited that her hijab violated the principles.
Najah Aqeel, who’s a ninth grader at Valor Collegiate Academies, a public constitution community primarily based in Nashville, Tennessee, was as a result of play at an away recreation for the freshman volleyball workforce on Tuesday. Proper earlier than the beginning of the sport, the referee instructed Najah and her assistant coach that her hijab violated the principles set by the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive Faculty Associations (NFHS), the nationwide physique that writes the principles for quite a few sports activities for many excessive faculties throughout the nation, and that she required particular permission to play.
Neither Najah nor her coaches knew something concerning the requirement. She had already performed video games sporting the hijab. Angered by the dearth of communication and the arbitrary enforcement of the rule, Najah started to cry.
“I used to be crying, not as a result of I used to be damage. I used to be crying as a result of I used to be offended. I simply thought it was unfair,” Najah instructed HuffPost. Najah’s mom, Aliya Aqeel, who was current to look at her daughter play, was devastated and tried to get solutions.
“My child’s crying. She was upset and I’m that mother that’s like, ‘No. You’ll be able to’t make her cry,’” stated Aliya. “This was an injustice. It was due to her faith. It was due to her hijab.”
Najah isn’t the primary Muslim student-athlete to have been disqualified from a highschool competitors as a result of hijab. In 2018, Muslim teen Noor Alexandria Abukaram was disqualified from her race in Ohio after finishing her private greatest time as a result of officers stated her hijab violated the uniform and he or she wanted to have a waiver.
Past faculties, Muslim athletes in skilled leagues have additionally confronted comparable challenges as a result of their hijabs, and plenty of stated they felt pressured to decide on between their religion and their ardour for sports activities. Advocates have since referred to as on each athletic departments and worldwide leagues alike to finish singling out Muslims and replace what they name antiqued guidelines which have notably focused Muslim girls.
A spokesperson for Valor Collegiate Academies instructed HuffPost that it had no concept the coverage existed till that recreation, and that its different hijab-wearing athletes on the faculty had by no means had a difficulty.
“As an athletic division, we’re extraordinarily upset that we weren’t conscious of this rule or beforehand knowledgeable of this rule in our three years as a TSSAA [Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association] member faculty. We’re additionally pissed off that this rule has been selectively enforced as evidenced by the truth that student-athletes have beforehand competed whereas sporting hijabs,” stated Cameron Hill, the director of Athletics at Valor Collegiate Academies in a assertion.
Though the varsity was capable of get a waiver for Najah and future gamers, Hill referred to as the rule “discriminatory” and “inequitable.”
When requested concerning the headwear rule, TSSAA, the state-level member of NFHS, instructed HuffPost it was simply following the principles set by the nationwide group.
“TSSAA has all the time granted exceptions to any pupil that needs to take part with headwear, or different articles of clothes, as a result of non secular causes,” stated Bernard Childress, the manager director of the group.
“The request on this scenario was submitted to our workplace on Wednesday, September 16, and was authorized instantly,” he added. However for Najah, it was too late. She was pressured to take a seat out Tuesday’s recreation.
Neither the NHFS or the Center Tennessee Volleyball Affiliation — the administration that provided the referee — responded to HuffPost’s request for remark.
Policing Muslim Girls’s Gown In Sports activities
In 2017, the Worldwide Basketball Federation overturned its long-criticized ban on non secular headwear, together with the hijab, after a lot scrutiny. Following the go well with, the Worldwide Boxing Affiliation introduced earlier this yr that Muslim girls would even be allowed to compete in a hijab.
Large sports activities corporations are leaping at these adjustments. That very same yr, Nike launched its Professional Hijab line. Corporations like Adidas and Below Armour adopted go well with.
However these adjustments got here at a price. Faculty basketball star Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir was on her method to taking part in worldwide basketball when her goals had been halted. The Worldwide Basketball Federation or FIBA prohibited her from taking part in together with her hijab. The Muslim lady who performed for the College of Memphis was pressured to quit her dream. She’s since led the marketing campaign for FIBA to alter its coverage. In 2017, the league lastly lifted the ban.
When Abdul-Qaadir heard about Najah’s incident, she was outraged. She stated incident introduced again traumatic reminiscences for her when she was confronted and humiliated by sports activities officers due to her hijab.
“The very fact that is nonetheless occurring and younger ladies should nonetheless make this determination between religion and sport is ridiculous, and it’s time to essentially put an finish to it,” stated Abdul-Qaadir. “We have to take these guidelines out of the best way in order that extra of us can play freely with out having to reply to anyone.”
“The truth that I used to be, in 2004, having to hold a chunk of paper round each recreation that I performed, and it’s now 2020. It completely is senseless,” she added.
Shireen Ahmed, a sportswriter who has extensively coated Muslim girls in sports activities, stated “insurance policies that require athletes to supply waivers are extraordinarily outdated” and that there was no important proof or analysis that demonstrates that sporting a hijab whereas taking part in sports activities is harmful.
Faculties and athletic associations have to finally help and advocate for his or her athletes in opposition to such insurance policies, stated Ahmed, including that placing the onus on athletes like Najah or Noor in Ohio may be detrimental for the participant.
“I don’t assume there may be any want for this coverage. It simply others Muslim girls athletes,” stated Ahmed. “Highschool athletic associations really want to revisit and reexamine what they anticipate athletes to do to be able to compete. These insurance policies don’t mirror the communities they’re purported to characterize and it’s unfair to the athletes and to their groups.”
Combating For Change
In Ohio, Noor was capable of efficiently foyer for change. In June, the Ohio Senate handed a invoice to permit pupil non secular expression in extracurricular actions. Najah desires the identical.
“We wish the rule adjustments. We wish the rule thrown out,” Aliya stated. “That’s our largest mission as a household and as a workforce. So no different lady, not simply Muslims, however no different non secular teams should undergo what we undergo.”
Najah is amongst roughly 65,000 Muslims within the state of Tennessee. If the rule doesn’t change, advocates say it may discourage different Muslims from collaborating in sports activities.
“This simply places pointless limitations for folks of all religions however for Muslim ladies to take part absolutely in sports activities. Our state company ought to be servicing all their student-athletes and ensure none of them really feel discriminated in opposition to and there aren’t any limitations to taking part in sports activities,” stated Sabina Mohyuddin, the manager director on the American Muslim Advisory Council, an advocacy group that empowers Muslim Individuals in Tennessee.
Najah is again on the court docket and has performed twice because the incident. Nonetheless, she and her household really feel like that is only the start over a bigger situation from Muslim girls in sports activities.
“We’re not simply combating for Najah. We’re not simply combating for Muslims. We’re combating for anybody that this rule impacts,” stated Aliya.
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