She is just 5.1 feet tall and has been called ‘Tiny’ for a long time not just by her foes in her classroom, but in her own family. But the journey for the 16 years old, Amaiya Zafar, has been rather long and certainly adventurous.
After fighting for the right to wear hijab and fight in the ring, the Minnesota girl has become the first woman to compete in a boxing match while wearing hijab and covering her arms and legs.
When she started out training for boxing her mother had taken a vow from the girl that she will not spar till she has got her permission. It was her father who had initially supported her and taken to her first boxing coach.
After a year-long grueling training, the positive changes that took place in the diminutive girl’s personality, her mother gave her permission to spar. By this time the mother of the teenager was sure that her ‘little’ daughter was well prepared to defend herself against her competitors.
It was the first USA Boxing match where a competitor fought while wearing a hijab on Saturday. Though the girl lost the fight, but her struggle ensured that other Muslim girls in the US will not have to fight the legal war that she had to fight. And despite the loss, she is ready to work harder and win future matches.
Zafar and her family are practicing Muslims and wearing a hijab that covers her head is mandatory. This is the reason that the sixteen-year old girl not just covers her hear with a headscarf but also cover her arms and legs as part of her observance of her Muslim faith. Until yesterday’s match Zafar was banned from the ring when it came to professional boxing matches.
While writing on her blog, Amaiya Zafar says, “In the 2+ years I’ve pursued boxing, I have faced a lot of adversity. While most support me in this journey, some have opinions that they are eager to share, telling me I should take up baking or sewing rather than taking on a “men’s sport”. Even after being told that I will not be allowed to compete in my Capsters sports hijab and under armour underneath my uniform, I have kept up my training. I train as if I have a fight everyday. I work to keep myself at my very best and to keep God first. When the time comes, I will be ready to fight my hardest! I have the support from my coaches, teammates, and my family to keep me going”.
Her struggle has given a new hope to her and many other Muslim girls like her. Meanwhile Huffington Post quoted Mike McAtee, interim director of USA Boxing as saying that the organization was updating its requirements to accommodate boxers like Zafar. “We are in the process of amending our domestic competition rules specifically to accommodate the clothing and grooming mandates of our boxers’ religions… These rules will provide exemptions so that athletes can box without running afoul of their beliefs” said he.