US athlete disqualified for wearing hijab

September 29, 2020

TENNESSEE: A high school athlete was disqualified from a volleyball match for wearing a hijab, prompting calls for a statewide rule change.Najah Aqeel, a freshman at Valor Collegiate Prep in...

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TENNESSEE: A high school athlete was disqualified from a volleyball match for wearing a hijab, prompting calls for a statewide rule change.

Najah Aqeel, a freshman at Valor Collegiate Prep in Nashville, was warming up for a match on September 15 when her coach said a referee had refused to let her play due to her headscarf.

The referee cited a casebook rule requiring athletes who wear a hijab to be granted authorisation from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA). Najah, 14, said she did not have authorisation, but that it wasn't an issue for previous matches. Faced with the choice to remove her hijab or sit out the match, Najah decided not to play. "I was angry, sad and also shocked just because I had never heard of the rule before that," Najah told CNN. "The rule has no business being in the casebook. It singles out hijabis. I don't see why I need approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion."

Karissa Niehoff, executive director for The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH), , told CNN that the uniform guidelines are not hard rules, and that states can make exceptions. "We are heartbroken and deeply sorry that the young lady was disqualified from the match for wearing the hijab," Niehoff said. "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."



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