Noor Abukaram ran her best time of the season, but it wasn’t recorded because of her hijab
Last weekend, a 16-year-old high school student in Ohio ran her best cross-country race time of the season — only to find out at the finish line that her time wouldn’t be recorded because she’d been disqualified from the district match. The reason? She wears a hijab.
Noor was lined up to begin a race with her teammates when officials approached her coach about her hijab, which didn’t match the rest of the team’s uniforms. They told the coach that in order for Noor to race, she needed a written and signed exemption letter that would allow her to deviate from the team’s uniform. Rather than ask Noor to remove her hijab, the coach let her race, knowing she would be disqualified at the end.
“In order to be respectful of her religious views, he did not ask her to remove her hijab,” a race official told reporters.
Race officials didn’t tell Noor Abukaram until after her race that her hijab didn’t meet uniform standards, which is ridiculous in and of itself. Her cousin posted about the incident on Facebook, where it’s gone viral.
Noor said the incident was “something that I had always feared which has now become a reality.”
The teen and her family are now fighting the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) over the ruling, which is very clearly culturally insensitive and pointless.
“I feel like my rights as an athlete were violated this weekend because this rule does NOT exist in writing,” Noor wrote. “I should not have to get a waiver signed and approved by OHSAA to allow me to race due to my religious head covering. Hijabs are not specifically prohibited by OHSAA rulings.”
Noor’s coach added, “I couldn’t/can’t find in the rule book any clause that prevents or prohibits hair coverings like Noor’s. The OHSAA and I have been in contact and they have issued an exemption. They expressed their sympathy, but felt that the official was correct to disqualify Noor.”
Requiring religious head coverings to fit matching team uniform standards is completely ridiculous. A hijab obviously isn’t part of a sports uniform — it’s part of the person who chooses to wear it. Women should have absolute freedom to choose to wear what they want to express their views, and it shouldn’t detract from their absolute freedom to participate in whatever sports they want to play.
Noor’s family is right to fight her disqualification, and we can only hope that officials in Ohio — and every other state — do the right thing and stop discriminating against women who wear hijabs.