A Muslim high school student-athlete in Ohio was disqualified from her cross country race last Saturday for wearing a hijab without getting prior clearance to do so, the New York Times reported Thursday.
Sixteen-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram has played three sports while wearing a hijab, without issue, before getting disqualified in last weekend’s race — her seventh of the season. She found out after her race that her coach was supposed to have submitted a waiver for her to wear the garment.
“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,” Abukaram told the Times. “I went out to where they put the papers up, but my name wasn’t there.”
Her teammates had been told she was disqualified before the race was over.
Abukaram was confused as to why she needed any kind of waiver, but the head covering was apparently considered a uniform violation at the relatively strict district-level meet. She even went through uniform checks before the race, when a teammate was asked to change shorts, but Abukaram wasn’t told she was violating any rules.
“They don’t have to prepare anything special for me, I don’t have any disabilities, I am just running just like anybody else. When he said that, I didn’t think, ‘Oh, Coach, why didn’t you do this?’ I thought, ‘Why do we even have to do this in the first place?’”
A spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association confirmed that the official who disqualified Abukaram made the right call, but said that the association may consider amending the rule surrounding religious headwear in the future.
After learning of the disqualification, the school submitted a waiver (which was approved right away) for Abukaram to compete in regionals this weekend. She runs in leggings, a long sleeve shirt, and the Nike hijab — the same model worn by Ibtihaj Muhammad when she won her Olympic bronze medal in fencing.
Through her cousin’s Facebook account, Abukaram penned a now-viral post about the situation. She said she was “humiliated, disappointed, rejected and in denial” over the situation.
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