Muslim Student Athlete Disqualified From Cross-Country Race For Running In Her Hijab
A 16-year-old Muslim student athlete at a high school in the United States was disqualified from her race in Ohio because of her hijab
The student-athlete, Noor Alexandria Abukaram, started wearing the hijab in 2016. Since then, she has played three high school sports.
However, it was not until last Saturday, 19 October, that the athlete learned she wasn't allowed to run in her hijab without special permission, the New York Times reported on Thursday, 24 October.
She ran her fastest 5k, and her seventh cross-country race of the season, with a personal best time: 22 minutes and 22 seconds. However, her scores weren't counted.
Noor, who is on the Sylvania Northview Cross Country Team, was disqualified by an Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) official last Saturday in Findlay, Ohio.
In a Facebook post, Noor claimed that OHSAA officials did not inform her if they had a problem with the hijab prior to the race
"They let her run the race thinking she was fine and after the race, while she was searching for her time alongside her teammates, she discovered her time wasn't there. When she asked why, her teammates responded, 'because of your hijab'," Noor's cousin wrote in the Facebook post that has since gone viral.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association said that while runners can participate in religious headwear, they must fill out a waiver beforehand as "it is a change to the OHSAA uniform regulations"
"The official was simply enforcing this rule since a waiver had not been submitted," OHSAA said in a statement, as reported by Good Morning America on Thursday.
"After the race, the OHSAA communicated with the school, which then submitted a waiver request. The request was approved immediately, which will permit the student-athlete to compete this weekend at a regional competition," it added.
However, Noor, who previously ran in a hijab without any objection from OHSAA, said that she was "completely humiliated by, like, everybody knowing that I just ran my PR, and it wasn't on record"
"We just found out we were going to make regionals and we were ecstatic, my whole team, so we went over to check our placing in the race," Noor said in an interview on Thursday, as reported by the New York Times.
"I went out to where they put the papers up, but my name wasn't there."
It was like a nightmare came true.
Good Morning America reported her saying that she has participated in six races this year, all of which were officiated by OHSAA, and never had an issue.
According to her, she was unaware of the uniform regulation or needing a waiver.
Despite being aware of the rules, Noor's coach did not see the rule about not being allowed to wear a hijab in the OHSAA rule book
"The athlete's attire had not come into question at all previous competitions. The coach learned of the disqualification at check-in before the race," a representative from Sylvania Schools was quoted saying by ABC Toledo affiliate WTVG.
"In order to be respectful of her religious views, he did not ask her to remove her hijab."
Noor said that she respects her coach's decision to let her run in the race despite knowing she was disqualified.
"I think my coach just feels really bad," she said, adding that he apologised.
Although, she said that she felt humiliated by the fact that everyone knew about the decision that she had been disqualified while she was still running.
"I was totally humiliated. I felt like a clown. I am running this race and I have been disqualified and everyone knows it except for me," she said.
The case has attracted a lot of attention, with Elizabeth Warren - who is a Democratic presidential candidate for 2020 - criticising "discriminatory dress codes" that exclude religious minorities
Sabre fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics, also took to her Facebook in support of Noor
Following the public outrage, officials said the rule might change.
Meanwhile, you can read Noor's account of the experience here: