Ohio high school athlete disqualified from race despite running her personal best because she wore a hijab
16-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram has been a part of the team for three years. She has also competed in soccer and track teams but said that before this incident, she was never questioned about her headgear
A high school athlete in Ohio has been disqualified from a district race even though she was her fastest in the season because she was wearing her hijab.
The student, 16-year-old Noor Alexandria Abukaram, was disqualified because her hijab did not conform to her uniform.
"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," Abukaram told CNN on Thursday, October 24.
"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?" she asked.
Abukaram, a student of The Bounty Collegium, is a cross country runner and was a part of the Sylvania Northview High School team in Ohio.
She has been a part of the team for three years. She has also competed in soccer and track teams but said that before this incident, she was never questioned about her headgear.
According to the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA), an athlete may wear the hijab during the race, provided they have a waiver permitting it as part of the uniform.
"Cross country runners may participate in competitions with religious headwear, provided the runner has obtained a waiver from the OHSAA and submitted it to the head official before the race, since it is a change to the OHSAA uniform regulations," spokesman Tim Stried told the news outlet.
"The official was simply enforcing this rule since a waiver had not been submitted," he added.
After the race, a waiver was submitted and Abukaram will be participating in the regional competition happening next Thursday. The Association is also looking at potentially modifying the rule so that a waiver is not required for athletes to wear headgear in the future.
Abukaram found out about the disqualification from one of the teammates. Jerry Flowers, her coach, said that the officials had informed him about five minutes before the race that she needed a waiver.
"He notified me she would be disqualified. I had the option to ask her to remove it or not run," he said. He added that the issue had never been brought up before and that she had run many races with no problems at all.
"I knew that asking her to take it off is not respectful to her," Flowers said. "I didn't want to put her in the situation to make it seem like I was putting pressure on her to change who she is. I wanted her to run carefree. I figured she would race better if she didn't know."
On Facebook, the athlete said, "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".
She added, "I wasn't given the chance to explain myself to them because they didn’t have the decency to tell me what the issue was."