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New USA Boxing Rule Now Allows Muslim Teen to Box While Wearing Hijab

Inclusivity is currently a major issue as companies and brands are making changes to their rules and business models in an effort to include those with different backgrounds and beliefs.

16-year-old Amaiya Zafar, who is Muslim, is an amateur boxer from the St. Paul, Minn. area, and up until recently was forced to choose between her faith and her love of sport. As part of her boxing uniform, Zafar chooses to wear her hijab and cover her arms and legs. Because of this, she’s never been able to fight in an official boxing match because her attire wasn’t approved by USA Boxing and she’d be banned before the match began.

“Boxing is about to get a whole lot better because they’re being inclusive of a whole group of people who couldn’t compete before.”

Last week, USA Boxing, which is the national governing body of the sport, told Zafar and her family they would be giving her an exemption to its clothing mandate that requires fighters to wear sleeveless jerseys and shorts.

The teenager was excited about the decision made by USA Boxing, and told NBC News, “Boxing is about to get a whole lot better because they’re being inclusive of a whole group of people who couldn’t compete before.”

Also applauding the decision was the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy organization. They released a statement saying, “This is a positive step forward in the continuing struggle for religious freedom in our state and nation.”

Zafar will be the first boxer to benefit from this new rule about religious exemptions which USA Boxing will adopt in June. It will only be for local “non-advancing matched bouts” and a request for a religious exemption needs to be made for each event the boxer competes.

Her first match will be April 29 at the Spring Fling Amateur boxing match in Minneapolis. Zafar hopes to compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, but she’ll have to fight to wear her hijab and have her arms covered there as well.

Zafar’s coach told Minnesota’s ‘Star Tribune,’ of USA Boxing’s religious exemption, “This is a big step. She’s put a lot of labor 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.”

It’s great to see organizations take into account the religious backgrounds of those who want to compete in their sport. Being inclusive is how the sport will grow.