May 06, 2014 04:34 AM EDT
NCAA Allows Muslim College Wrestler to Compete With Beard
The National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA, has given a waiver to a Muslim college wrestler that allows him to keep his beard and participate in intercollegiate competitions.
According to NCAA rules, college athletes are required to be clean shaven while competing in wrestling matches. University at Buffalo wrestler Muhamed McBryde agreed to sit on the sidelines for an entire season instead of agreeing to shave his beard as it would compromise his faith, NY Times reports.
"My religion says you're supposed to keep a beard," said 17-year-old junior, Buffalo reports.
In April, the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee permitted McBryde to battle with a beard during the 2014-15 season provided he sported a face mask and chin strap to cover it. The university will have to make new requests for a waiver with the NCAA for McBryde to play in any other seasons.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations on Monday hailed the NCAA's decision concerning the pre-med student of Buffalo.
"This is part of his practice as a Muslim. It's basically protected by the First Amendment," said Nina Kraut, general counsel for the CAIR Foundation.
McBryde, a Niagara County community college graduate, joined the university wrestling team last summer as a walk-on. The athlete missed about 20 dual matches after head coach John Stutzman informed him last December that he cannot compete in tournaments due to the beard.
Muslims maintain a beard in accordance with their faith. Mustafa McBryde was annoyed that his son was forced to let go an entire season of competition over a simple matter.
"A lot of Muslims, we just bend to these sorts of things, primarily because we're not aware of our rights. It's a serious matter about being Muslim in America, and it's a serious matter about our afterlife," said Mustafa, a former high school and collegiate wrestler.
McBryde, who has been learning wrestling since age 6, faced a similar beard restriction while competing in an open tournament at the Community College. When McBryde got ahead of his opponent, the opponent's coach raised the issue of the beard with the referee.
"He told the ref, 'I'm not going to shave, so we had to forfeit that match,' " recollected McBryde.
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