A controversy has erupted in the Tennessee state of the United States of America after a high-schopl athlete was disqualified from a volleyball match for wearing a hijab.
The incident happened on September 15 when Najah Aqeel, a freshman at Valor Collegiate Prep in Nashville, was training before the match when her coach told her that she has been barred from playing the match by the referee because of her headscarf.
Muslim girl was barred because she had not sought authorisation for wearing a hijab during the match
Citing a casebook rule mandating athletes who wear a hijab to have an authorization from the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA), the referee asserted that Najah was not granted the authorisation to wear a headscarf in the match. Najah, on the other hand, admitted that she had not sought an authorisation for wearing a hijab but claimed that it wasn’t an issue during her previous matches.
When given the choice of removing the hijab to play the match, Najah decided to sit out. Wearing hijab is an orthodox Muslim practice and conservative Muslim women strictly adhere to it only remove it either in front of their family members or in presence of other women.
Stating that she had the right to wear whatever she deemed appropriate, Najah said that she was appalled by the association singling out Muslim women for wearing a hijab of their own volition and which is also a custom ordained by their religion.
“I was indignant, sad and also shocked just because I had never heard of the rule before that. “The rule has no business being in the casebook. It singles out hijabis. I don’t see why I need the approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion,” Najah said in an interview with CNN.
Disqualification of the Muslim girl prompts statewide demand for changes in the rules governing sports competitions
The disqualification of the girl from a volleyball match has prompted statewide outcry, with many organisations calling for the changes in the casebook rules that prevents hijab wearing girls from participating in volleyball matches.
Karissa Niehoff, executive director for The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH), an organisation which formulates competition rules for most US high school sports, said that the rules are not set in stone that exceptions cannot be made to accommodate special cases.
She also added that NFSH is going to introduce new language to its casebook in connection to religious headwear so that it will no longer be an issue in the future, unless it poses a danger to the player or other athletes.
The American Muslim Advisory Council has asked for the invalidation of the rule that caused a Muslim volleyball player for a Nashville school to miss the match because she was wearing a hijab.