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Hijabi Women Can Now Compete in International Boxing Matches

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Posted on Feb 20, 2019
Dilshad Ali

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You may remember German boxer and Nike Pro Hijab ambassador Zeina Nassar from the famous and controversial Nike advertising campaign last year featuring Colin Kaepernick, who advised athletes and people everywhere - “Believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.”

Now Zeina’s firm belief in her right to wear hijab and box has been validated. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has changed their guidelines and rules to allow female boxers to wear hijabs at international competitions for religious reasons. This decision was announced at the AIBA Executive Committee meeting in Istanbul, Turkey in early February.

Restrictions on wearing a hijab while competing in boxing has been an ongoing issue in boxing affecting many Muslim women boxers, including American boxer Amaiya Zafar, who achieved victory in her battle in 2017, as reported in this Harper’s (Arabia) Bazaar article:

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 [AIBA] rule 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.

Zeina Nassar

Zeina’s ongoing campaign to be allowed to box in international competitions coupled with her elevated profile through her Nike ambassadorship was a major factor in pushing AIBA to changing their guidelines. Zeina, who is a five-time boxing champion in her country, wrote on Instagram, "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. We live in the 21st century and it cannot be that we still have problems with it in sports."

We here at Haute Hijab are so thrilled for this news! Sports and hijab can go hand in hand seamlessly, and we’re happy that Zeina, Amaiya and others like them can compete while adhering to their religious beliefs! Alhamdullilah!

(Image source: Zeina Nassar's Facebook profile.)


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