Runner disqualified for wearing hijab

Noor Abukram had posted her best time for the season before being ruled out

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reads a scripture during funeral services for Rep. Elijah Cummings, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019, in Baltimore. The Maryland congressman and civil rights champion died Thursday, Oct. 17, at age 68 of complications from long-standing health issues. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, Pool)
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A US high school runner says she was disqualified from a cross country event in the state of Ohio because her coach didn’t have a waiver allowing her to wear a hijab.

The association that oversees high school sports in the state said on Thursday that it’s considering changing its rules after the disqualification.

Noor Abukaram said she felt humiliated after being ruled out last weekend following a race in which she posted her best time for the season.

“My heart dropped, I felt like something horrible had happened,” she told WTOL-TV. “I think I was mostly embarrassed.”

Her coach at Sylvania Northview High School told The Blade newspaper he made a mistake by not getting the waiver, but he didn’t think it was needed because no one had raised the issue at her previous 10 races this year.

Ms Abukaram, 16, said she was not upset with her coach, only the rule.

US Senator Elizabeth Warren expressed her solidarity with the excluded runner.

“I’ve got your back, Noor,” she said on Twitter.

“Every kid should be able to feel safe and welcome at school – and Muslim students should never be denied participation in school activities.”

The Ohio High School Athletic Association’s rulebook doesn’t specifically mention hijabs but does ban most head coverings and caps.

It also says anyone requiring an exception because of religious or other reasons must get a waiver.

The athletic association previously discussed dropping the waiver requirement for religious headwear, but the disqualification has now brought the issue to the forefront, said Tim Stried, a spokesman for the organisation.

Any change to the rule likely would be in place by next season, he said.

Association officials have issued several waivers this fall and have never turned down such a request, Mr Stried said. He also acknowledged that the rule isn’t always fully enforced, including when it comes to wearing caps in cold weather.

Similar issues have come up across the US in recent years.

The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association voted last year to drop its waiver requirement after a high school basketball player in Philadelphia was forced to leave a game because she was wearing a hijab.

Ms Abukaram, meanwhile, obtained a waiver this week and will be able to run in the state regional meet this weekend.