Girls’ basketball referees from the Golden Gate Officials Bureau Referee Organization prohibited junior varsity player Amina Nakhuda from playing during two pre-season games because her religious attire was against uniform regulations in the 2015-2016 school year, according to Nakhuda and Coach Mike Evans. Coaches and players are concerned that this problem will resurface this year.
Nakhuda, who is Muslim, was told on two separate occasions that she couldn’t play wearing her hijab and under armour attire used to cover her arms and legs.
The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) basketball rules handbook states, “head decorations and headwear… are prohibited.” However below that the handbook includes a religious exception stating, “State Associations may on an individual basis permit a player to participate while wearing a head covering… for religious reasons.”
According to Nakhuda, during the first half of a pre-season game last year the referee told her that she had to take off her hijab. “One of the refs pointed at my head and said, ‘You better take that shit off your head before the second half or you’re not playing,’” Nakhuda said. “Then he proceeded to slam the ball towards me.”
The referees did not allow Nakhuda to return to the court for the second half of the game. “I had never really been subject to such blatant discrimination… I felt sad, and defeated,” she said. According to Nakhuda, some of her teammates refused to play the second half of the game in protest.
After the incident Athletic Director Christina Amoroso informed Nakhuda that her religious wear needed to be the same color as her uniform. Amoroso also contacted a commissioner from the North Coast Section and received a letter which explained that, due to the religious exception, Nakhuda had permission to wear her Under Armour and hijab.
But during a second pre-season game, when Nakhuda wore attire that matched her uniform, she once again was told that she couldn’t play, even after she showed the referees the letter of explanation. Nakhuda’s coach at the time, Alan Tong, didn’t forfeit the game despite directions from Evans after the first incident to do just that.
“…our student-athletes should never feel the indignity of not being allowed to participate because of their religious beliefs and the “attire” that comes with that belief,” Evans said.
This issue has already resurfaced once during the current basketball season. “I was approached by an official…who privately questioned the ‘attire’ of Amina and Khadija [her sister],” Evans said.
Evans said he was alarmed by the official’s lack of understanding of the ‘religious’ exception. “I informed our athletic director about the conversation and she immediately made telephone calls [to officials at the Golden Gate Officials Bureau] to clarify the situation so that our players do not have to face any incidents this season,” he said.
Looking back at last season Nakhuda said, “I really don’t want to feel pitied because of something that seems miniscule compared to what others have gone through…All I could hope for is that [the referee] learns about my religion and sees the beauty in it, not the hate.”