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Muslim and Sikh boxers have to give up boxing if they want to practice their religion, which requires them to have beards.

A new rule imposed by the Amateur Boxing Association of England (ABAE) says that boxers who wear beards cannot enter the ring.

ABAE says that the ban on facial hair is meant for the health and safety of boxers.

The ban is supposed to protect boxers from scuff injuries or the danger of hair going into the eyes of the athletes and damaging the cornea.

Nabeel Butt, an amateur boxer, had to choose between religion and his career aspirations.

The ABAE adopted the ban after Mohammed Patel, a Muslim boxer, from Bolton near Manchester, filed an appeal against the Association in December last year.

"Prejudice towards Muslims"

He was stopped from boxing minutes before his match began, because he had a beard. Now on behalf of Patel, Bolton Council of Mosques is all set to challenge the rule in the court of Law.

Until December last year, Sikhs were allowed to box with beards. But after Patel's appeal, ABAE put a blanket ban on all boxers with beards, irrespective of their religion.

Indarjit Singh, director of Network of Sikh Organisations, thinks the ban is absurd and petty.

"The people in the amateur and World Boxing Association are showing prejudice towards Muslims and this is part of that prejudice," He told ROOTS.

Mr. Singh continued:"It affects Sikhs although we were exempt because at that time people realized that to ban Sikhs would infringe the law. Now they seem to have forgotten that in the rush to get at the Muslims".

The Bolton Council of Mosques are planning to take the issue to court as they consider the ruling to go against the Equality Act of 2006 .

by Rabea Khan and Denisa Morariu

Muslim Boxers "Can't Wear Beards"


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