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Muslim Girl Benched for Wearing Hijab in Basketball Game

As more covered Muslim girls take up competitive sports, supporters say it's time to get beyond merely allowing the hijab _ or traditional Muslim headscarf worn for modesty _ and help make those wearing them feel welcome. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

A 12-year-old Muslim girl in Maryland was reportedly forced to sit on the bench and watch her teammates play after a referee ruled Maheen Haq's headscarf posed a safety risk on the court.

According to local news reports, the referee warned that the headscarf could pose a potential choking hazard, even though the Smithsburg middle schooler had warn the hijab during the first five games of the season.

The girl's coach, Mark Kershner, says he was forced to bench the player. "You could see that she was emotionally affected. Without embarrassing her, I could see it in her eyes," he said.

The student was allowed to play during the game's second half, but only after her parents agreed to a liability release.

Although the issue did not involve the young girl's religion, Dr. Syed Hague, president of the Frederick County Muslim Council, said the referees should have been more sensitive. "They should have asked what it is, how it's worn, how it's done," he said. "That would have helped a lot."

Regulations regarding attire in athletics are common and also prohibit items like jewelry or long laces which could pose a potential safety hazard for players. Dr. Hague argues that the hijab poses no safety risk.

In the meantime, Coach Kershner says there's been no harm, no foul.

"She's a go-getter. She'll be right back on the court tomorrow night,” he said.

Daphnie Campbell, the sports league's coordinator, suggested Haq's parents provide a letter stating that the hijab is part of their daughter's religion and that they accept liability for injuries to avoid future conflicts.

One last thing…
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