A Muslim high school student from Ohio was disqualified from a cross country run earlier this month for wearing hijab.
“It was like your worst nightmare to have to compete and then find out that you got disqualified and it’s because of something that you love,” Noor Alexandria Abukaram told CNN.
“Why should you have to sacrifice your religion and a part of who you are to run, to do another thing that you’re very passionate about?”
The 16-year-old Muslim teen posted about the surprise disqualification via her cousin’s Facebook on Wednesday.
Officials at the race were checking the team’s uniforms and took issue with one runner’s shorts that did not match the rest of the team’s, Abukaram writes.
Later on, the official allowed this teammate to change her shorts and compete. “Immediately, I began to wonder if they were going to call on me next since I was wearing all black pants and hijab,” she wrote.
However, Abukaram began to fear something was wrong when she saw her coach speaking with officials.
After she finished the run, she realized her time was not up on the board.
“At this point, I’m confused and was confident that this was a mistake so I walk over to the rest of my team and say to them, ‘Hey guys my name isn’t on the list.’ They all stared at me blankly and finally they said, ‘you got disqualified,'” she writes.
“Immediately my heart drops, I become nauseous and feel like I got punched in the gut,” she wrote. “This is something that I had always feared which has now become a reality. I just walked away and my teammates didn’t say anything else.”
Abukaram told several news media outlets she had competed in six meets this season without any problems.
“When (her coach) told me that, I was like, what do you mean I have to have a signed waiver for me to race?” she told The New York Times.
“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?’”
Tim Stried, a spokesman for the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), told USA TODAY in a statement Friday that the organization had been examining the rule and was considering dropping the waiver requirement.
“The student-athlete can run this weekend at regionals, and the OHSAA is also already looking at this specific uniform regulation to modify it in the future so that religious headwear does not require a waiver,” Stried’s statement read.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate, heard about the situation and expressed her criticism of the school on Thursday over Twitter, blasting “discriminatory dress codes.”
“I’ve got your back, Noor,” Warren wrote.
“Every kid should be able to feel safe and welcome at school — and Muslim students should never be denied participation in school activities.”
I’ve got your back, Noor. Every kid should be able to feel safe and welcome at school—and Muslim students should never be denied participation in school activities. My public school plan fights discriminatory dress codes that exclude students like Noor. https://t.co/cNEZfnk3vy
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) October 24, 2019
Dr. Yasir Qadhi, a prominent American Muslim scholar, also wrote on Facebook to support the young Muslim teen.
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.
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.