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Headscarf Forces Md. Girl Basketball Player To Miss 1st Half

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WJZ) -- A 12-year-old Muslim girl was forced to sit on the bench during her basketball game, all because of the religious headscarf she wears.

Kelly McPherson spoke with the young girl Wednesday evening.

Maheem Haq, 12, is back on the court---with her headscarf.  A few days ago, a ref made her sit out of the first half of a game because she wouldn't take off the religious wrap.

"I was upset a little bit 'cause I really wanted to play and I enjoy playing basketball," Haq said.

"We were very upset when we heard about it because she has been able to play the entire time and there's never been a problem," said Connie Cline, a teammate's mother.

"The referee was within his rights.  He was right to do what he did," said Daphnie Campbell, Mid-Maryland Girls' Basketball.

The scarf is a Muslim custom for women, but the league coordinator says there was no request on file allowing Haq to wear the scarf, which is considered a safety hazard.

"I will accept full responsibility for it.  Being new, no, I didn't know anything about it.  I didn't know I had to ask for permission, I didn't know a letter had to be on file.  I didn't know anything of that," Campbell said.

The team offered to forfeit the game.  The Haq family said no.

"To inspire other kids as well that you can maintain your religious belief and strike a balance between your active life and still maintain your religious beliefs," said her father, Mohammad Haq.

"I do feel that some people were offended or emotions were hurt, and that's not what we're here for.  We're here to learn sports and maybe some life skills along the way," said Coach Mark Hershner.

"I feel really happy," Maheem Haq said.  "I feel great."

The basketball league is now specifying in its bylaws that any exception to the uniform rules needs to be put in writing by the child's parent.  The Haqs are just happy that everything has worked out.

The referee was following the rules for high school games and will not be reprimanded.

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