High school students playing volleyball
An obscure rule in an official high school volleyball handbooks prevents players from wearing hijabs unless they've gotten explicit permission to do so.

In volleyball, you can get disqualified for illegal moves like catching the ball or reaching beyond the net. In Tennessee, you can apparently add ‘wearing a hijab’ to the list of things against the rules.

High school athlete Najah Aqeel was disqualified from a high school volleyball game on September 15th for the dubious reason of wearing her hijab during warm-up.

The 14-year-old athlete, who is Muslim, was told by her coach that the referee wouldn’t let her play in the game unless she removed her headscarf, citing an obscure rule set forth by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association (TSSAA) that requires student athletes to receive special authorization to wear hijabs during games. 

The rule hadn’t been enforced in prior games, and neither Aqeel nor the athletics director at her school had even heard of the rule before at all.

Faced with the option of removing her headscarf or sitting out the game, Aqeel opted to sit out. But the case left everyone wondering why such an antiquated rule even exists anyway - and why it was suddenly and unexpectedly enforced.

A Weirdly Specific Rule

"This rule was used to humiliate a 14-year-old student in front of her peers,” says a Change.org petition created by the American Muslim Advisory Council. “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 a Muslim."

However, a lawyer for the TSSAA says the rule is anything but discriminatory, and was written to prevent referees from having to make "a multitude of ad hoc decisions about what is or is not permitted, a completely unworkable situation that would lead to arbitrary distinctions."

The rule as-written says: "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.”

The rule was taken directly from The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFSH), which oversees most high school athletics nationwide, and they’re already working on retooling the language of the rule.

"We are heartbroken and deeply sorry that the young lady was disqualified from the match for wearing the hijab," said executive director of NFSH Karissa Niehoff. "More common sense should have been demonstrated by the adults.”

Game, Set, Discrimination

That’s all well and good for the future, but the damage is already done. Najah was humiliated in front of her peers and made to feel bad just for practicing her faith. 

She told CNN that she was “sad, angry, and also shocked... I don't see why I need approval to wear my hijab when it is a part of my religion."

No one should be prevented from participating in athletics because of their faith. And critics say it's curious that hijabs are the only religious garb specifically singled out. There’s nary a mention of dangly Christian cross necklaces, which arguably pose more danger to player safety than hijabs, they point out. 

What is your reaction? Should hijabs be regulated in athletic events, or is this a clear case of religious discrimination?

34 comments

  1. Minister Mike's Avatar Minister Mike

    Didn't we just go through this a few months ago?

    Typical christian bigotry. Nothing more, nothing less.

    1. Alan S Corr's Avatar Alan S Corr

      What do you mean when you say typical Christian bigotry ?

  1. Chris's Avatar Chris

    Bravo to her for standing up for her beliefs in the face of discrimination. It may be an official rule, but I agree it's odd the hijab is the only specifically mentioned article since it poses no threat, no interference, no influence on the game whatsoever.

  1. T Kosse`'s Avatar T Kosse`

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    1. Alan S Corr's Avatar Alan S Corr

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      1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        White nationalist is gonna support his ilk, nuff said about you.

  1. Krystina S.'s Avatar Krystina S.

    This young lady showed determination and poise in the face of discrimination and insensitivity on the part of uber-obsessed with "that rule" judgment. Also, I often need to wear a mask, different depending on the ambient conditions, because of Trigeminal Neuralgia- guess a mask is okay. What about a doo-rag? What about a cap for those with other neurological conditions? What about what about what about? I merely mention odd health conditions because they can create Different Looks and Other Garb. Being a practicing Muslim who wears a hijab is not a Condition. It is freedom of religion.

  1. Philip Joseph Ryan's Avatar Philip Joseph Ryan

    There is absolutely no requirement in the Koran for a female to wear a hijab. It is a symbol of submission and oppression, moreover, a true believer would not take part in such an immodest game.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      It is also cultural and some Muslim women I know wear it not as an oppressive piece of cloth but as a part of their cultural identity and adds to feelings of personal safety. They don't have to worry about men ogling them when they walk down a street or in a shop. For some, it is respect for their religion, Other women have told me, they don't need to wear it and don't. Some wear it to match their dresses as a fashion statement. We can look to the apparel of nuns within the Roman Catholic church where women are completely covered except for areas from chin to eyebrows. If an Arab or Muslim woman does not feel the hijab is not oppressive, then it isn't.

  1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

    Why does a piece of cloth threaten these people? Who are these people to try to control a woman's hijab? People in this country still have not accepted the truth when they equate a hijab wearing woman with terrorists. They still deny that the US was attacked by males Saudis on 911 yet still buy gas from that nation. Hypocrites.

  1. Takaya Kovani Sweeney's Avatar Takaya Kovani Sweeney

    Ummm...why does she need to be half naked to play a sport?

    I always wondered that w/indoor volleyball anyways... I played and sometimes you end up on the floor w/painful rub burns and cuts.

    It’d actually be better suited to have on a long sleeved full pants type of suit anyhow IMHO.

    Guess the pervs need to continue watching girls body parts jiggle around to play the sport. 🙄 (that’s sarcasm for those that don’t catch on so easily).

  1. Victor Allen Wunschel's Avatar Victor Allen Wunschel

    It seems that the whole situation should have been avoided by simply saying the students that wish to participate in extracurricular sports must wear the approved uniform, and only the approved uniform. No political statements are tolerated, no religious statements are tolerated. You want to participate, you follow the rules. There, problem fixed. The hijab was just an example, not specifically used as discrimination. In this particular case, adults should have allowed it - once. After that, and in private, work out an exception or let the student choose to drop out.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      Had you fully read the article? It points out that she had been wearing her head scarf for some time with no one having an issue. The entire complaint seemed to be done to force her hand during a critical point in the season for her team, It comes across more as some parent from the rival teams see it as a way to try to weaken a team that dared to allow a" EEVVVUUULLLL MUSLIM" as such scum that would give this girl grief must think in classic bigoted thinking.

      The purpose of team colors in sports is to let team members quickly ID a team mate in a fast play when you dont always have the time to think beyond hey there is a team mate open.

      They are not for us the audience to eye hump them, and imo its about time all athletes stop being put in uniforms that are obviously more about that then functionality. And I dont put this on the human form, but on the failure of modern culture to raise mature minded people who can separate nudity from sexual lust in their head and not think a woman in tight clothes wants men to holler vulgar demands and borderline threats of sexual assault on a near daily basis.

      For example actual wrestling done in the ancient greek way nude, and oiled by all accounts makes for a far more dramatic and truly spectacular event. One that could even lead to deaths in the arena. They actually did all athletics nude for simple practicality. Why wear clothes that will just get soaked in sweat?

  1. Thom's Avatar Thom

    How else are we going to cave in to this bunch of complainers? What else are they going to demand for our society to accept or be labeled as bigots or racists? We did not ask them to ring their culture to the US, they decided too. We have rules and laws which have been in place for many generations and yet, when they come in we are suppose to just bow down and give in. The muslim religion states followers are not allowed to obey them because they are laws made by the ignorant. So, the laws made by a pedophile are to be followed while the laws made over many years are to not be followed?

    So many are so afraid of offending someone that we are letting our standards of rules and living be set aside to please everyone else. If she can't be with people who follow their rules and religion, why does she not play on a muslim girls league? I am sure they are told to wear their hijabs. So, if you don't like how we do things here, find some place where you can be happy. Religion should enhance your life, not dominate it.

    As for this girl, let her make her demands but, let the rules be followed and not changed. We are already caving in to the mentally handicapped who can't figure out which gender they are. We have people who are running around making demands which are totally against a moralistic and ethical society and, what happens? Someone sets up a charity for the "disability" and then a ribbon color is chosen.

    It is time for us to have our country and not theirs.

    1. Keith Maloney's Avatar Keith Maloney

      oh oh oh,,, and look at the bottom of our page...

      We are all children of the same universe.

      Look my friend at those symbols.

      Look at them!

      1. Thom's Avatar Thom

        Yes, we are members of the same world but, we all have our own beliefs. Those symbols are just that, symbols made to represent the way one believes. I believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to live a peaceful existence and allow each and everyone to do the same. I work to make sure my little bit of the world is a good place. But, I accept and understand people of other beliefs and do so happily. However, if they believe I should not be on this earth for what I believe all because of some individual who had messed up values wrote a series of books then, I don't want them in my world and I don't want them to destroy other people's worlds.

        The muslim faith has a place in any land if they accept others. I grew up not thinking twice if anyone was a different religion but, they made it a battle by going radical, not me. If they want to pray to a prophet who was a child molester then so be it. But, if they want me and all other non-believers dead because I believe in a different type of life, no, not going to accept it.

        1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

          http://www.ptwf.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=209%3Amuslims-are-commanded-by-muhammad-to-protect-christians-and-their-churches-until-the-end-of-days&catid=86&Itemid=526

          Yeah if you actually understood a thing about the origin of that subset of the abrahamic faiths, you might grasp how wrong you are.

          The youngest wives of that era were 10, many americans in the U.S. under the guise of christian faith every year force girls as young as 12 into marriage against their will, with only the wishes of the parents of the child being heard. In fact every time we in the U.S. in states try to end the BS religious loop hole that allows child sex trafficking and slavery via christians trading their daughters for social status, it is indeed the christians of the states that rise up and throw a fit and keep this danger to children across the U.S. legal.

          Do you understand that a extremely small fraction, as in less then 1% of the globes muslim faiths are extreme and act as you seem to think all do. Much as only a small fraction of Christians actually follow the original dogma of their faith, or how man citizens in the U.S. like yourself have such a poor understanding of what violates our secular system, and what does not. A athlete who is still wearing their team colors, is not somehow breaking the logical reason for wearing a team uniform, nor is her head scarf going to cause her team mates to not see her as their team mate.

          Here is one of the things I appreciate about the muslim faith over the jewish/christian ones. The Muslim faith speaks of walking side by side with the animals, of viewing lions as brothers to share the world with rather then mindless beasts to abuse and subjugate(( Muslims were basically the first animal rights activists of their corner of the world) meanwhile christians think animals have no souls, and exists entirely for the use of humankind.

    2. Keith Maloney's Avatar Keith Maloney

      Yup, and bluegrass music was evil, so was elvis, the beatles, and hordes of other thngs that have become the norm now

      oh what did the good book say? live and let live?

      who is "US" and "our" country? isn't it theirs as well???

      'Cmon,its a hijab, you wouldnt be saying it if she had cancer and was upset about her apperence?

      1. Thom's Avatar Thom

        Music is for entertainment as is how movies have changed over the years. We have not changed them, what hollywood allows us to see is what is released. They blame us for the movies we see and the music we listen but, they are the ones who produce it. We, as the buying public, have the choice to accept or not accept what they release.

        As for the "Live and let live", the islamic religion is against anyone who is not of their faith to not live. Plus, the muslim faith in so many ways tell good muslims not to interact with non-muslims.

        So, how is this a "norm"? If you look to Minneapolis cab drivers, who are more than 50% muslim, they are not ferrying passengers who they know are carrying alcohol with them. They say it is against sharia law. Now, are they forcing their values on us? Yes. Are they forcing their laws on us? Yes. This young lady is wearing her hajib in accordance to what her family and religion have taught her to do. But, her forcing the league to accept her religious laws over what are our standards and values is not right. If there are rules then she should follow the rules.

        You say it is a hijab but, the biggest fights have begun with the smallest of gestures.

        This is their religion and life-style, not mine. I don't see their religion as something I want to follow just as I don't want to follow the mormon faith. Why should I be forced to accept and live by their rules?

  1. Paul J. Fumero's Avatar Paul J. Fumero

    No, they need to adjust to this society. Any christian that goes to a muslim country will be forced to wear the rag at least or killed at worst. If in a secular school, follow the rules or go elsewhere. No special treatment allowed here.

    1. Eddie E. Smith's Avatar Eddie E. Smith

      If you're going to live in America you should respect America and American Laws ,Rules culture and regulations.. Because you're muslin don't give you special privilege! If you want to wear a diaper on your head do it at home, don't push it down our throats.You're not special. If you won't except American rules laws etc. you should leave America !!

      1. Keith Maloney's Avatar Keith Maloney

        Eddie, so what you are saying, is that we should take off the yamikas on jewish folk, cut off theitr beards. take off the turbans on sikhs? Make sure budists dont wear dresses? Native americans cant wear their cultural garb? You are right, this is america. We DONT have a universal religon! Dont be silly! America is a melting pot! STOP the segregation of people that dont believe in all of what you do. If the young lady feels comfortable wearing a hijab, so be it. is it allecting anyone elses physical performance? I say no! Maybe hers. These thoughts are why there is so much division in this world! NO ONE will ever think exactly as you do sir!

        Just be kind.

        1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

          Well said. Thank you.

      2. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

        What is "American culture"? The culture of Native Americans? African Americans? Asian Americans? Latinos? Do you mean something else? Our nation is made up of diverse groups of people with their own original languages, religions, spirituality, customs, foods, etc. No one holds title to define what it is to be an "American." That is jingoistic.

      3. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

        Well Eddie, in the U.S. we are a nation based on secular rather than insular views when it comes to the myriad faiths. If you actually practiced what you preached you would be shedding modern clothes and go join a traditionalist tribal family on a reservation, because guess what, what you push certainly wasnt the practice of the european immigrants who actually did come as an invasive and violent force, raping, killing,and forcing their so called christian values upon those they deemed little more then animals.

        The rules and Laws of U.S. protect this young lady, as it is a clear action violating her religious right to force her to remove a garment that in no way hinders or risks harm to herself or others during the game. News flash you are on a secular nondenominational churches forum, that does not support insular bias like you express. Unless you can accept others openly practicing their faith you have based on life liberty and happiness, in violating another's, lost the rights to them yourself.

  1. Lionheart's Avatar Lionheart

    Personally, I want to see nuns wearing their full habit in the wrestling ring, or attempting to run the 400 meters hurdles. The world needs more humor!

    🦁♥️

  1. John Patrick Byrnes's Avatar John Patrick Byrnes

    A volleyball court is not a church nor a mosque for that matter. The rules of volleyball prescribe the player uniforms and they don’t include religious paraphernalia. Volleyball is a world game that promotes equality between men and women. Individuals adhering to antiquated traditions that denigrate women do their cause no justice by seeking to impose their views and customs on enlightened communities. Good call, ref.

    1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      If a Muslim woman who wears a hijab does not consider the head covering to be "antiquated and denigrating" than it isn't. A man should just shut up about it and move on.

    2. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

      It is also cultural and some Muslim women I know wear it not as an oppressive piece of cloth but as a part of their cultural identity and adds to feelings of personal safety. They don't have to worry about men ogling them when they walk down a street or in a shop. For some, it is respect for their religion, Other women have told me, they don't need to wear it and don't. Some wear it to match their dresses as a fashion statement. We can look to the apparel of nuns within the Roman Catholic church where women are completely covered except for areas from chin to eyebrows. If an Arab or Muslim woman does not feel the hijab is not oppressive, then it isn't.

  1. Brother Thomas Knight, esq's Avatar Brother Thomas Knight, esq

    Tell me, where was all this outcry when the Jewish kids in my district got Jewish holidays added to the school calendar?

  1. Christian's Avatar Christian

    This case demonstrates the need to abandon the government's Public School to Prison Labor Pipeline, and have a national voucher program so parents can send their children to the private school or home school system of their free will choice.

    Secular Humanism and Atheistic Materialism are both belief systems ENFORCED against the student's religious beliefs, as State Mandated belief systems, in violation of 1st Amendment Rights.

    Quit the school & have her parents build their own school, or join a home schooling network that honors the Constitution and the full BILL OF RIGHTS.

  1. James Grainger's Avatar James Grainger

    Maybe the guy or gal who made the call was anti-Muslim. If such a rule has not been enforced in the past, then there is no other explanation. He or she should be fired...

  1. Calvin F Pacheco's Avatar Calvin F Pacheco

    Tired of bowing to this religion that condones pedophilia and enslavement of non believers. Don't want to follow rules dont play

  1. Richard Lee Cornell's Avatar Richard Lee Cornell

    It is the times where everything needs to be spell out on what is proper and what is not. If she was from another country where wearing a hijab is not consider part of the religion but as a force upon females by sexist male pigs.

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