Minnesota teenager could become first American boxer to fight in hijab

A new rule expected to be adopted by the governing body for USA Boxing will allow female Muslim fighters to compete in hijab, the traditional Islamic headscarf, according to a press release from the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The group has been fighting on behalf of an Oakdale, Minn., teenager who wants to wear leggings and long sleeves, as well as a hijab, during competition.

Thursday, CAIR announced that 16-year-old Amaiya Zafar is scheduled for a fight April 29 in Minneapolis, which would make her the first competitor in a USA Boxing-sanctioned event to compete while wearing hijab. USA Boxing will not officially adopt the rule change until June--when its updated rule book is set to be approved--but so far it looks as if Zafar will be allowed to fight.

The text of the new "religious exemptions" was released Thursday as a part of the announcements, and simply requires any competitors asking for rule changes to submit their request to USA Boxing's national office at least a week in advance of any bout.

The previous rules, which only allowed female competitors to fight in shorts and a tank-top, have stopped Zafar from competing in the past--including a bout last November which made national headlines.

Zafar's coaches took her to the Bert-Sugar National Championships in Florida, hoping to have her fight for the title, but officials called off the match before it even began. Her competitor, Aliyah Charbonier, gave Zafar the championship belt, saying she was the true champion.

"I was overwhelmed," Zafar said. "It felt like finally someone is respecting all the work I've put in. It was really cool."