Muslim Student Athlete Disqualified From Race for Wearing Hijab



Noor during the Saturday race.

Raquel Perry, Marketing Manager

A Muslim student-athlete in Ohio was disqualified from a high school cross-country race last weekend because she did not have a signed waiver giving her permission to run in a hijab.

16-year-old, Noor Alexandria Abukaram, a Junior on her school’s cross-country team, ran in a Nike hijab, which the company specifically created for female Muslim athletes. This was her seventh cross-country race of the season.  She ran her fastest 5K race of the season for Ohio’s Sylvania Northview High School: 22 minutes and 22 seconds. But after the race, she noticed 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.

She soon learned she had been disqualified because of her hijab.

“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 said that she had never been forced to get permission to wear her hijab in any sport competition before last weekend. She also said officials did not address her hijab immediately after the race. In fact, when officials inspected her team, they informed one of her teammates that her shorts were in violation of the rules and allowed her to change, but they did not say anything about the athletic hijab. She said she had seen her coach discussing something privately with the officials.

Officials told her that her coach ultimately didn’t fill out the correct paperwork. According to Ohio High School Athletic Association, the Nike sports hijab is reportedly considered a uniform violation.

The teen said she began crying to her dad on the phone, feeling “humiliated, disappointed, rejected and in denial.” Abukaram’s coach later explained that in order to race with her hijab on, she needed to fill out a waiver ahead of the competition. “He assured me that he will get this waiver signed and I will race at the regional invitational the following weekend which is this coming weekend,” she wrote.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s decision to disqualify Abukaram drew widespread attention.

Massachusetts Senator, Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic Presidential Candidate, expressed her criticism about the incident 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.”

Abukaram’s cousin, Zobaida S. Falah, shared an account of the incident in a Facebook post on Wednesday.

“I feel like my rights as an athlete were violated this weekend because this rule does NOT exist in writing. I should not have to get a waiver signed and approved by OSHAA to allow me to race due to my religious head covering,” Abukaram says in the Facebook post.

After the race, the 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.

“My hijab is a part of me. Like, if you’re asking me to run without my hijab, you’re asking me not to run. That’s period. Point blank,” Abukaram told NBC. “I was disqualified from something that I love to do because of something that I love,” Abukaram told The Washington Post on Friday. “Because of something that’s a part of me.”