Skip to main content

'Let Noor run': US teen disqualified from cross-country race for wearing a hijab

Social media users have gathered in support of Noor Abukaram who says she was not informed of the alleged code violation prior to the race
Noor was disqualified from a cross-country race for wearing a running hijab (Social media)

The decision of a high school athletic association in the United States to disqualify a young runner from a race for wearing a hijab has made waves on social media, as commenters denounced the move as Islamophobic. 

Noor Alexandria Abukaram was disqualified from a cross country race by the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) last weekend because of her hijab. She only learnt of her disqualification once she had completed the race and failed to locate her name on the results sheet, at which point she was informed she should have obtained a waiver prior to the race.

Speaking to NBC, the teenager denounced the application of unwritten regulations, saying: "My hijab is a part of me. If you're asking me to run without my hijab, you're asking me not to run."

The 16-year-old athlete’s aunt took to Twitter to denounce the incident, vowing that the family would "not stay quiet" nor “shy away”. 

Many outraged users took to social media to voice their opinion on the matter. 

The incident inspired a number of hashtags across various social media platforms, including #WeStandWithNoor, #IStandWithNoor and #LetNoorRun.

Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad showed her support through an Instagram post, in which she describes the “hurdles” faced by visibly Muslim women in American sports.

The OHSAA responded to the incident saying it was just a standard enforcement of their rules against “change to the OHSAA uniform regulations”.

However, some observers believe that Noor was unfairly picked on.

"I feel like my rights as an athlete were violated this weekend because this rule does NOT exist in writing” Noor was quoted saying in a Facebook post on her cousin’s account. 

In this account, the athlete described how she felt “rejected” when she was not granted the same courtesy as another teammate, who was allowed to rectify her uniform violation before the race.

Some Twitter users believe the judgement had "racist" motivations.

In 2017 another Muslim-American high schooler, Je’nan Hayes, faced similar discrimination due to her hijab, when she was forced to sit out of a basketball game because she lacked “documentary evidence” to prove she covered her hair for religious purposes. 

Anti-Muslim sentiment in Western countries often expresses itself in relation to the headscarf, a form of gendered Islamophobia that has been criticised as attempting to control Muslim women. 

France in particular has been the stage of numerous anti-hijab debates in recent years. In October alone, over 85 televised debates took place in the country after a Muslim mother accompanying a school trip to a regional assembly was publicly berated by a right-wing politician for wearing a headscarf.

None of these debates included panelists who wear the hijab.