A teenager was told she couldn't participate in a high school basketball game because she wouldn't take off her hijab.
Je'Nan Hayes, a student at Watkins Mill in Maryland, was supposed to play on her basketball team during its appearance in regional playoffs but was not allowed to because of the hijab, according to the Washington Post. Before Hayes was informed of the decision, she was sitting on the bench watching her teammates play. A referee reportedly made the decision that she wouldn't be allowed to play, basing the call on a rarely enforced rule.
"I didn't even want to look down at Je'Nan in that moment," coach Donita Adams told the Post. "I had not yet told her that she wasn't allowed to play in the game because of her headscarf."
Prior to the game, an official at the school where the game was being played told Adams that the school needed "documented evidence" that Hayes needed to wear the scarf for religious reasons.
Hayes had played in 24 previous games during the season without incident.
"I felt discriminated against, and I didn’t feel good at all," Hayes said. "If it was some reason like my shirt wasn’t the right color or whatever, then I’d be like, ‘Okay.’ But because of my religion it took it to a whole different level, and I just felt that it was not right at all."
After Adams informed Hayes of the reason for her exclusion from the game, she reportedly broke down in tears.
"The officials of the game there took a strict interpretation of the rule, instead of the spirit of the rule," Andy Warner, the executive director of the state's governing body for school athletics, said. "Does this fundamentally alter the game? Does this create an inherent risk? Does it create a competitive advantage? It doesn’t do any of those things, so why are we denying what would be approved if they were to put a simple request into the association?"
Many readers expressed their support for the referee's decision, saying that the girl should have simply taken off her hijab.
"Young lady, you are wrong! I suspect you are following your marching orders to cause as much havoc as you can. If you want to play basketball here in the US, you follow the rules. If you don't want to follow the rules, then either don't play, or go back to the country from which you came and play for them!" one reader commented on the site's Facebook page.
"This is the problem., they want US to conform to their 'laws' not the other way around. Don't give in...And why would she think she could play with well with that rag on her head getting in the way? She is just trying to make a statement for all Muslims to get their way in the country so we can end up like other countries that have let them do so....and look at the mess they are all in now....Sweden, Germany, England, just to name a few that they have INVADED for that purpose only," another added.
Sources: Washington Post / Photo credit: Yasamin Ekrami/Washington Post