International Boxing Association Rewrites Rules For Hijabi Women To Compete

BY Sara Tardiff / Feb 20 2019 / 15:27 PM

"I fight the prejudices by boxing with my headscarf," says Nike Pro Hijab ambassador Zeina Nassar

International Boxing Association Rewrites Rules For Hijabi Women To Compete
Instagram @zeina.boxer

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) just amended their guidelines to now allow female boxers to wear hijabs at international competitions "should they want to due to regligious reasons." They announced the historic change at the AIBA Executive Committee Meeting in Istanbul, Turkey on 9 February.

German boxer and Nike Pro Hijab ambassador Zeina Nassar played a major role in reforming the discriminatory rule, after fighting and winning the right to box in her home country.

"I fight the prejudices by boxing with my headscarf. I always had to fight them because I had to hear that women with head scarves are not educated, are forced to wear the headscarf and have no freedom. I prove them wrong, those are only clichés," the five-time German boxing champion wrote on Instagram. "We live in the 21st century and it cannot be that we still have problems with it in sports."

The restriction on competing while wearing a hijab has been a long-time issue in boxing, most notably in the case of 15-year-old American boxer Amaiya Zafar who challenged USA Boxing rules that prevented her from fighting time and time again. After years of lobbying against the organization, in 2017 they finally adopted a new religious exemption rule which would allow Zafar to become the first athlete ever to wear a hijab during an American boxing match.

This new rules means that Zafar will be allowed to pursue her dream of competing in the 2020 Olympics while wearing her headscarf. Shirzanan, an activist group for the rights of female Muslim athletes worldwide, has successfully lobbied on behalf of this issue and will continue to fight for other sports to drop their restrictions ahead of the 2020 Games.

Other sports continue to experience similar discrimination against women who wear traditional headscarves, including judo, which banned Indonesia judoka Miftahul Jannah last October from the Asian Para Games when she refused to remove her hijab. It caused a public outpouring of support for Jannah, but the rule is still in effect.

At the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics, however, U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history as the first Muslim-American woman to wear a hijab while competing.

The year is already shaping up to be a momentous one for Muslim women in sports. We can't wait to see what the 2020 Olympics bring.

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