Fifteen-Year-Old Girl Wants To Wear Hijab; USA Boxing Requests Waiver

Brandi Powell, KSTP.com, December 4, 2016
 
A first-of-its kind decision in amateur boxing is hanging in the balance: Can girls wear Muslim coverings during competitions?    
 
The Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR said it has welcomed decisions by other sports to change its rules or obtain waivers to allow athletes to compete while sticking to their religious rules, including international associations for soccer, wrestling, basketball and weightlifting. 5 EYEWITNESS looked into the various sides of this controversial issue.    
 
It is in the rules. The international boxing association AIBA said girl boxers must wear a sleeveless athletic shirt and loose fitting shorts that fit halfway down their thighs: No exceptions.
 
"It's a uniform," Lisa Bauchm, coach and owner of Uppercut Boxing Gym in Northeast Minneapolis, said. "All professional and amateur sports have a uniform, and the doctors need to be able to physically see parts of the body, to make sure there isn't an injury or an abrasion...it's a safety issue."    
 
But one 15-year-old is trying to change the rules.
 
"I don't think it's a safety issue, because a doctor can check me out first. They can check if I have padding in the Under Armour which is skin tight, and if I bruise or cut myself underneath, I'll feel it. I can say, 'hey, can you check this out? It kind of hurts,'" Amaiya Zafar said.
 
The Oakdale teenager said wearing her hijab is part of her Muslim religion. "I wear it to be modest;so it covers my hair," she said.
 
The Executive Director of Minnesota's Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jaylani Hussein, said he's pleased with USA Boxing's push for change; requesting a waiver, this fall, to AIBA.
 
"You know, I think we are looking for an opportunity for this young girl to get a chance to do what all young teenagers [do], especially girls who want to play in this unique sport boxing; and the only difference is that she's a Muslim," Hussein said.
 
But boxing coaches who like the rule said changing them could be a slippery slope. 
 
"If you say yes to one person, then when do you draw the line," Bauch said.
 
She also brought up how it is tough to find female boxers in the upper Midwest region and it impacts females who want to train at the gym.
 
"We train a lot of females at the gym and the first thing I tell them when they want to compete, 'it's really hard to match you,'" Bauch said. "You can ask any coach in the Upper Midwest, female boxers are hard to match because they're just few and far between."
 
Hussein said not allowing a girl to wear her hijab while competing in boxing is discrimination.
 
"It's been a rule that's been in place, there's a reason why it's in place, and it has nothing to do with anything else, except that it's been in place for a very long time," Bauch said.

"She has a lot of patience in this and determination and she's not letting it bring her down. She'll keep pushing forward until she gets her opportunity," O'Keefe said. Amaiya said she will continue to be patient and will continue to box with the hopes she can one day compete.
 
Amaiya will try to enter Saturday's Silver Gloves Boxing Tournament in at Uppercut Boxing in Northeast Minneapolis. Lisa Bauch said she has not yet been matched, as there are not a lot of girls her age, with her height, weight and experience level. The 15-year-old said she is hopeful someone will show up who fits the criteria to be her match.
 
AIBA has not yet made a decision on whether USA Boxing will grant the waiver the organization requested.