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Can't Ban Us: A Movement That Matters and Is Central to the Work We Do
Mar 22, 2021
Dilshad Ali
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Basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir; image source: Haute Hijab
Dilshad Ali
The pushback against religious-based head covering bans or waiver requirements in athletics (and other areas of life) has belonged to the athletes and women (and men) fighting it on basketball courts, soccer pitches, cross country running tracks, boxing rings, gyms, volleyball courts and more across the country and globally. From basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir to high school volleyball player Najah Aqeel, the message has been clear: You can’t ban us. We should be able to play and respect our religion.
We’ve been following and reporting on these stories for years, but the development of Haute Hijab Sport, which included hours of interviews and discussions with Muslim women athletes and fitness lovers, helped us realize how important it was for us as a company to provide support from behind the scenes to these fierce, strong women fighting these fights to wear their hijabs and play sports.
Thus was born our ongoing #CantBanUs campaign, in which we are working with athletes, athletic associations and organizations to educate about hijab and supporting women to push back against rules that require waivers for religious head coverings or outright bans them.
Last fall we were fortunate to meet with Najah, the freshman volleyball player in Nashville, Tennessee, a few days after she had to sit out of her second game of the season because her coach hadn’t gotten a waiver for her to play in her hijab. In covering her story, we knew we had to do more. So, we met with her, Bilqis and Noor Alexandria Abukaram (an Ohio high schooler who also was disqualified from her cross country meet in 2019 because of a lack of a waiver for her hijab) to find out how and where we can help them and others who face the same problem.
Najah Aqeel; image source: Aliya Aqeel
The ability and right to wear one’s hijab or religious head covering is very important to us because we know that one’s ability to engage in sports, run a company, be a teacher, care for one’s family, work in STEM or whatever is limitless and unaffected by one’s hijab.
In the nascent stages of our #CantBanUs campaign, we’ve been fortunate to offer support in the background and help move the dial towards more inclusivity. Here’s what we’ve got going on thus far:
1. Continuing coverage of stories pertaining to hijab restrictions and bans in the area of sports/athletics and other areas and lending our support and voices to athletes who are banned.
2. We put together and presented a resource on hijab and hijab in sports to the National Federation of High School athletics organization ahead of their annual rules committee meetings. The NFHS is one of a few organizations that write the rules for high school sports across the country. Our presentation, which supported the work of athletes like Najah, helped inspire rule changes for high school volleyball, soccer and field hockey, with more to come Insha’Allah. Ongoing communication with various NFHS Rules Committee Directors on rewriting rules that speak to religious head covering waivers
3. Advising on language for various sports rules as they pertain to religious head coverings
4. Supporting groups like the Illinois Muslim Civic Coalition as they push for state legislation to end religious head covering waivers in sports and extracurricular activities across the board in public schools
5. Record incidents and stories of faith-based head covering and clothing bans from our various communities through this form. We encourage you to document your own stories using the form and share it in your circles.
Basketball player Bilqis Abdul-Qaadir
We plan to do more in the coming months and are working on the structure of those strategies, which we will be sharing with you soon. We are also here for you: What more can we do to support you if you are facing a pushback or ban because of your hijab? Let us know in the comments below or email us at
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