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-US Muslim Weightlifter Wants to Compete in Hijab

by Dr. D ~ June 11th, 2011


Kulsoom Abdullah, a 35 years old American Muslim who is a weightlifter is battling to be able to compete wearing a hijab instead of the body-hugging uniform that’s required.

Last December, she qualified for the American Open Weightlifting Championships, which would have been her first national competition but refused to wear a qualifying uniform. Her modified uniform covers everything but her face, hands, and feet. According to USA Weightlifting which follows International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) rules:

“uniforms must not cover either the knees or the elbows because the judges must be able to see that the lifter has locked out his or her knees and elbows in order for the lift to be deemed completed.”

The International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) mandates collarless uniforms and doesn’t allow any exceptions. However, the IWF plans to discuss Abdullah’s request at a June 26 meeting in Penang, Malaysia.

The United States Olympic Committee responded by saying that they are committed to being “inclusive” but that it’s up to the IWF to rule on whether the modified uniform would provide a “competitive advantage” or not.

Meanwhile, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim advocacy group, has taken up Abdullah’s cause, and is lobbying weightlifting organizations to revise their rules in time for her to compete in the July national competition.

CAIR officials are claiming that this is a case of religious discrimination on the part of the USA Weightlifting and that they are guilty of violating the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act which forbids sports bodies from discriminating based on “race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin.”

Response: I am in favor of Abdullah being able to compete in her hijab if the IWF determines that the uniform doesn’t really give her any advantage over others. If the hijab does really obstruct the judges from properly observing her moves than maybe it should be disallowed.

This is not a case of religious discrimination like CAIR is trying to make it out to be. Those involved seem to be trying to find ways that make it possible for Abdullah to compete. Every sport has rules that need to be consistently adhered to.

If the sport is a contest for eating Pork ribs than it is not religious discrimination because Muslims or Jewish folks decide that they cannot compete without violating their religion. They are after all free to participate or not according to the rules like everyone else. There is no way that any type of ‘special rules’ could be devised that would make Pork ribs Kosher or Halal. This example may be poor but I believe that it is rather obvious and to the point.             *Top

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