US Muslim teen says disqualified from race over hijab

WASHINGTON

A Muslim-American teenager says she was disqualified form a race she ran in earlier this month because she said officials told her the hijab she was wearing did not conform to regulations governing the competition.

Noor Alexandria Abukaram, 16, said she completed the race last Saturday and only found out that she was ineligible because she could not find her time posted alongside her those of her teammates.

Abukaram said in a Facebook post on her cousin’s page that after questioning why her time was not posted her teammates told her it was “because of your hijab.”

“I become nauseous and feel like I got punched in the gut,” she wrote. “I was humiliated, disappointed, rejected and in denial. I couldn’t believe what just happened.”

Abukaram is a cross-country runner at Sylvania Northview High School in Ohio.

She said in the Facebook post that she overheard her coach discussing something with race officials before she began running, tying the matter in her mind to an earlier attire violation that was resolved.

“I thought ‘why are they still talking about the shorts issue if it was resolved?’ And again, the thought crossed my mind that maybe they were talking about me,” she said.

“My coach came over to the team and one of the officials looked at him and said, ‘don’t tell her now wait till after.’ NOW, my mind is fluttering with different thoughts regarding what the officials and my coach could be talking about. At this point, the race was about to start and I knew that I needed to clear my mind and focus on the race ahead,” she added.

The school told CBS News that the coach knew of the disqualification before the race began but did not want to tell her in consideration of possibly disrespecting her religious views.

“I wasn’t given the chance to explain myself to them because they didn’t have the decency to tell me what the issue was,” she said. “I feel like my rights as an athlete were violated this weekend because this rule does NOT exist in writing.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association rule book for the 2019 school year, a copy of which is posted to the association’s website, does stipulate however that “a competitor who requires an exception to the uniform rules because of religious restrictions or otherwise, must submit a request for a variance from the” group via email.

“If the variance is granted, a written, signed approval of the variance must be presented to the referee prior to competition,” it says.
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