Muslim wrestler goes to the mat for his religious beliefs

UB student’s beliefs call for a beard

Muhamed McBryde has loved wrestling ever since he can remember, but when he had to choose between shaving his beard and competing for the University at Buffalo, the decision was easy.

McBryde sat on the sidelines.

The pre-med student believes shaving the beard would compromise his faith. He is Muslim.

Even though NCAA rules clearly state that all competing wrestlers must be cleanshaven, the 17-year-old junior said he never considered getting rid of his facial hair.

“My religion says you’re supposed to keep a beard,” said McBryde of Buffalo.

His refusal to shave, though, cost him nearly a full season of competition.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, today said that a Muslim wrestler at the University at Buffalo in New York has been granted a waiver by the NCAA to wear a beard he believes is required by his faith.

That action by the NCAA Wrestling Rules Committee came after CAIR’s intervention and after the civil rights group urged university officials to request the waiver. The Muslim wrestler will be allowed to compete with a beard during the 2014-15 season as long as he wears a face mask and chin strap.

NCAA rules currently ban beards, but they are permitted in international competition, including the Olympics.

“Now that this individual waiver has been granted, we will work with the NCAA to change its policy to allow beards for all competitors nationwide,” said Sadyia Khalique, director of operations for CAIR’s New York chapter (CAIR-NY). The wrestler’s family initially contacted CAIR-NY, which brought the issue to the university.

“We welcome this reasonable religious accommodation by the NCAA, which will enable Muslim athletes to participate in wrestling without violating their religious beliefs,” said CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas, who worked with the family, the university and the NCAA to obtain the waiver.