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Ohio - Noor Alexandria Abukaram, 16, was disqualified from a high school cross-country race in Ohio because she did not have permission to run in her hijab. Her coach hadn’t applied for a waiver and an official said her time wouldn’t be counted. Now, officials from the Ohio High School Athletic Association said the rule might change.
“I was totally humiliated,” she said. “I felt like a clown. I am running this race and I have been disqualified and everyone knows it except for me.”
“When [the coach] told me [he had not applied for a waiver], I was like, ‘What do you mean I have to have a signed waiver for me to race?’” she said. “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?’”
She even mentioned that a U.S. Olympian had been allowed to wear a hijab without a problem.
Since that race, she has applied for and received the waiver, just in time for the postseason races. The problem is that wearing a hijab isn’t an accommodation that might provide some unfair advantage to a runner. That’s why it’s an unnecessary obstacle for the young girl.
“The official was simply enforcing this rule since a waiver had not been submitted,” Mr. Stried said. “After the race, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) communicated with the school, which then submitted a waiver request. The request was approved immediately, which will permit the student-athlete to compete this weekend at regional competition.” A spokesman for the OSHAA added that the association was also “looking at this specific uniform regulation to potentially modify it in the future, so that religious headwear does not require a waiver.”
Amy Addington, a spokeswoman for the Sylvania school district wrote: “The athlete’s attire had not come into question at all previous competitions.” “The coach learned of the disqualification at check-in before the race. In order to be respectful of her religious views, he did not ask her to remove her hijab.”
The coach, Jerry Flowers, said in a statement that he did not tell Ms. Abukaram that she had been disqualified until after she finished the race because he did not want to upset her.
“I figured she would race better if she didn’t know about the disqualification,” he said. “She earned a spot on the team, and I wouldn’t want her to miss a chance to compete.”
The disqualification does not represent religious discrimination but simply enforcing Athletic Association’s rule. It is evident that this rule must be amended and adapted, especially after such incidents.