I’ve always wondered why people make such a big deal about others wearing their religious clothing and/or accessories. It’s not like it’s hurting anyone, and we live in a country where our fundamental rights include the freedom of religion and freedom of expression.
So imagine how shocked I was when I read an article last week about a Muslim athlete being disqualified from a district level race in Ohio because of her hijab. Can you imagine?
Noor Abukaram, a 16-year-old Muslim athlete was disqualified from a race because she wore a hijab. And that’s not the worst part. According to an article on BBC, the officials who inspected her team never said anything about her hijab before the race. They waited until she was finished running to inform her that she was disqualified because her coach didn’t file for a religious waiver, and her hijab was considered unfit for the dress code.
Why is it that people are so focused on what someone wears, rather than focusing on that person’s personality and abilities? This girl worked hard to be a part of her team and to participate in that race, so why are people penalizing her for wearing a hijab instead of recognizing her athletic ability? It’s not as if her hijab is going to make her faster than everyone else or give her any advantage.
It’s unfortunate, but I feel that sometimes when you wear a religious symbol or religious clothing, some people don’t see you as the person you are, but they see you as your religion and sometimes, the stereotypes that go with that religion. I’m not saying everyone sees it that way, but I know that some do, and they’re missing out on getting to know someone that could be the nicest and kindest person they’ll ever meet.
It’s sad, really. Instead of encouraging and supporting our youth, people are getting in their way and hindering them. We should be pushing them to reach their full potential instead of fussing over their religious clothing.
I understand that there are rules and regulations, but there should be some degree of understanding seeing as how there is nothing in the rulebook that says anything specifically about hijabs. There is a rule saying that if you have any religious clothing you must wear, a waiver must be filed with the association. However, according to a spokesman for the Ohio Highschool Athletic Association (OHSAA), runners aren’t supposed to wear headwear, but they don’t always enforce it, allowing runners to wear hats when it’s cold out. So why can’t Abukaram wear her hijab?
I think Abukaram handled the situation like a champ. She showed that she understands the need for this to go public, because if it doesn’t, it’ll keep happening time and time again. She isn’t giving up.
This isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. Last year, a basketball player was asked to leave a game because she was wearing a hijab. In 2016, 16-year-old Amaiya Zafar was disqualified from the Sugar Bert Boxing National Championships because she wore a hijab and refused to take it off. These are only some among many other similar instances in the past couple of years.
“They don’t need to alter the course for me specifically. I’m running just like everyone else, I’m starting on the same start line and finishing on the same finish line,” Abukaram told the BBC.
I agree with her. She doesn’t need any special treatment or advantages. What she needs is to be treated the same as everyone else, to be allowed to participate regardless of her religion and the clothing that goes with it.
I think it’s time to re-examine the rulebooks and guidelines and make some changes. The current rules don’t take into consideration that women wearing hijabs would be involved in these sports. It’s time to make them more inclusive.
Graphic by Victoria Blair.