Muslim teen boxer fights to wear Islamic-garb in Duluth Tourney

Amaiya Zafar, via CAIR Facebook
Amaiya Zafar, via CAIR Facebook
Amaiya Zafar, via CAIR Facebook

The Duluth News Tribune reports on a Muslim teenage girl who wants to enter a Minnesota boxing tournament wearing a hijab and Islamic-attire, breaking longstanding rules of USA Boxing.

The “Back to School Duel” tournament starts tomorrow at Grandma’s Sports Garden in Duluth, and 15-year-old Amaiya Zafar isn’t signed up to compete, but it hasn’t stopped her family from working with a national Islamic-rights group to challenge the rules.

The Council on American Islamic Relations, (CAIR), is helping Zafar’s cause, releasing a press release on Tuesday asking that Zafar be allowed to compete this Friday wearing “modest Islamic attire.”  The statement read, “Outdated and discriminatory rules should not supersede constitutional protections guaranteeing religious freedom. This issue can best be addressed by working with Amaiya Zafar and her family to reach a mutually-agreeable solution that maintains the legitimate rights and requirements of all parties and allows her to compete in Duluth, Minn., this Friday.”

Sarah O’Keefe, is the mother of Amaiya.  Zafar wants to compete wearing a headscarf– or hijab– along with long sleeves and leggings covering her body. International Boxing Association rules require a sleeveless vest for women and trunks that don’t go below the knee for safety purposes.

MPR News spoke with Michael Martino, Executive Director of USA Boxing,  “There’s a safety issue involved. If you’re covering up arms, if you’re covering up legs, could there be preexisting injury? And then if someone got hurt during the event, the referee wouldn’t be able to see it.”

Per the Duluth News Tribune USA Boxing is working with Zafar, possibly to grant her a waiver to be allowed to fight. Martino said the U.S. Olympic Committee is involved. USA Boxing will write a letter to the International Boxing Association requesting a rule change be considered.