After being disqualified from high school cross country race, a 17-year-old Muslim teen from Ohio refused to accept the status-quo. She instead worked to change the rules and allow Muslim women to compete with their hijabs on.
“Hijabis and Muslim women can be the face of athletics,” said Noor Abukarum, Daily Californian reported.
“I can be the face of a cross country race or in a running magazine.”
The Muslim high school student from Ohio was disqualified from a cross country run in October 2019 for wearing hijab.
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In the days following the race, Abukaram felt withdrawn, asking her coach to fill out the waiver so she could race again.
“It took my sister to slap me in the face and say ‘We have a little sister who is going to be wearing a hijab soon. Do you really want this same thing to happen again to her? To the next generation of hijabi athletes that’s going to come through?’ ” Abukaram said.
So, Abukaram got to work, partnering with Ohio Senator Theresa Gavarone to draft Ohio state SB 288 which prohibits schools and interscholastic organizations from creating rules that infringe on the right to wear religious apparel. It passed unanimously on June 24, 2020.
Later on, she organized the campaign “Let Noor Run Virtual 5k” to raise money for the House of Innovation, a community maker space with a goal of promoting diversity and inclusion across all fields.
The hijabs donated through the 5k will be given back to Toledo inner city schools in a collaboration with the Toledo Public Schools’ equity, diversity and inclusion department.
“Me, as a hijabi athlete, being handed a tank top and shorts to run in a cross country race, is completely foolish because I can’t wear that. I have to get leggings, a long sleeve shirt and a sports hijab to wear,” Abukaram said.
“Just showing the hijabis in the school systems, ‘Hey, we have hijabs for you. It’s all accessible, just like it’s accessible to everyone else’ — that’s another mission that we are taking on.”
Around the world, Muslim women are defying cultural barriers and stereotypes to compete and excel at the highest levels of sports — in football, fencing, weightlifting, basketball, ice hockey and more.
In 2016, 14 Muslim women medaled in the Rio Olympics, including American fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim woman to represent the United States on the podium.
However, other sports continue to experience similar discrimination against hijabi Muslim women, like judo which banned Indonesia’s judoka Miftahul Jannah last October from the Asian Para Games when she refused to remove her hijab.