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Ohio Muslims Celebrate Passage of Bill Allowing Hijab in Sports

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.

Following years of campaigning, Muslim students in Ohio have celebrated the passage of a new bill requiring high schools to accommodate religious needs, specifically regarding clothing and head coverings during sports competitions.

Senate Bill 181, which was also backed by Christian and Muslim groups and the American Civil Liberties Union, had unanimous support in the state legislature, passing in the House 89-0 and the in Senate 33-0.

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“To see the acceptance and growth that we have in 2022. It’s amazing, because my school is so accepting,” Nasreen Shakur, a member of the rowing team at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, told Cleveland 19.

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The new legislation aims at ending discrimination against religious expression for student-athletes and was passed in the state Senate earlier this month.

Difficult Experiences

Before the new law, Muslim students were asked to get a waiver to wear the hijab and participate in sports.

The process was described by Abrar Ghazy, a junior and member of the basketball team at Lake Erie College, as “grueling.”

“They made me measure the Nike [swoosh] on my scarf & take pictures of the scarf from every angle, and all this was for safety protection,” Ghazy said.

The legislation is the result of a 2019 incident when a Muslim high school student, Noor Alexandria Abukaram, was disqualified from her high school cross-country track meet for wearing a hijab, and other similar incidents for other students.

This brought support for the bill from Ohio Jewish Communities, the Council on American-Islamic Relations of Ohio, the evangelical group Center for Christian Virtue, the ACLU of Ohio and the League of Women Voters of Ohio.