Muslim athlete gets disqualified before a volleyball game for wearing her hijab

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Madison Pape, Staff Reporter

On September 15, 2020 high schooler Najah Aqeel was disqualified from her volleyball game for wearing her hijab at Valor Collegiate Prep in Nashville, Tennessee. The referee would not let her play before the game because of her religious head covering, saying she needed prior authorization. 

I was angry, sad and also shocked just because I had never heard of the rule before that,” said Aqeel to CNN. Even though she could not play she sat on the sidelines and cheered for her team. 

TSSAA (Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association) is upset that this happened and wants rules to be changed. They claim they were not aware of this rule. 

Shortly after, Valor Collegate Athletics said, “We will not tolerate discrimination against students moving forward,” according to the statement. 

NFSH does provide this rule stating “The player must have authorization from the state association to wear the hijab or other types of items for religious reasons as it is otherwise illegal.” They are now preparing to have this rule changed so no problems will occur in the future.

Aqeel’s mother Alijah Aqeel was upset that her daughter could not play. 

“She was crying hysterically,” her mother told Today

After tweets were posted asking for equality, executive director of the National Federation of State High School Associations said the referee had good intentions and that this could have caused a safety risk or a hazard of some sort. 

Abdul-Qaadir, a WNBAl player, who is also Muslim, gave up a career opportunity becasue she was not allowed to wear her hijab.

 She tweeted “This arbitrary and archaic rule that @NFHS_Org has in place, that basically says, Muslim girls need approval to BE MUSLIM on the courts and fields, needs to be dropped!” 

There is now a petition made from AMAC to end the NFHSs discriminatory rule against Muslims. 

Karissa Nieoff, executive director of NFHS has said in an interview with Today that the referee has used “poor judgement” against Najah Aqeel. 

Our rules were developed to prevent kids from wearing things that might be grabbed or somehow pose a safety risk,” said Nieoff. 

Sabina Mohyuddin, executive director of American Muslim Advisory Counsil, said “Why should Muslim girls, who want to follow their constitutionally protected right, have an extra barrier to fully participate in sports in Tennessee?” She told Today. 

“This rule was used to humiliate a 14 year old student in front of her peers. It was traumatizing to say the least. We have Muslim girls across the state playing sports. Religious barriers to playing sports should not exist in this day and age. This rule is akin to telling Muslim girls that they need permission to be Muslim.”

This petition remains posted until the rules are changed.