Muslim teen wins fight for right to box in hijab

Muslim teen wins fight for right to box in hijab
Amaiya Zafar, a Muslim teen boxer from Minnesota, has won the right to compete in the ring in the US while also adhering to her religious beliefs that require her to cover her arms and legs.

"This is a big step," her coach, Nathaniel Haile, said Thursday as cited by The Star Tribune. "She's put a lot of labor into this. She earned the right to showcase her skills, and I'm happy for her. But it's just the first step in letting her achieve her dreams." 

While this is a significant milestone in her fledgling career, the ambitious 16-year-old has many battles ahead of her both in and outside the ring.

Her first sanctioned bout is scheduled to take place later this month on April 29 at the Spring Fling Amateur Boxing match in Minneapolis, but her right to compete extends only as far as the US border, resigning her to competing on the national stage for the time being.

Zafar has set her sights higher, however, and in order to reach her stated goal of competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo she will have to spar with AIBA, the international boxing organization, for the right to compete in her modest attire.

"We welcome this partial victory and look forward to the day when athletes of all faiths may compete nationally and internationally while maintaining their religious principles," Ibrahim Hooper, director of communications for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said in a statement.

"[Amaiya] has wanted this for so long," her mother told The Star Tribune about her upcoming amateur bout.

Zafar came close to fighting at a competition in Florida, only to be turned away after successfully weighing in, as her attire was in breach of competition rules.

"You get so invested. My weight is in the right place. My head is in the game," she said. To be turned away — "it's exhausting," she said of the experience.

"She fought for other Muslim youths," coach Haile said of the up-and-coming pugilist.