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US Muslim student disqualified in Ohio race over hijab

A Muslim high school student in the US state of Ohio was disqualified from a cross country race earlier this month for wearing a hijab.

Noor Abukaram, 16, said she was told her attire was against uniform regulations after crossing the finish line, adding that the experience made her feel “humiliated.”

She had been running for the Sylvania Northview school team all season, and her hijab had never been an issue before the district level race on Saturday in the city of Findlay.

Abukaram said she began to fear something was wrong when she saw her coach speaking with officials. She ran anyway, and photos show her wearing a headscarf during the race.

But 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.”

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. Abukaram said she has been running for Sylvania Northview High School the whole season and officials have never mentioned a uniform violation or need for a waiver.

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) said in a statement that runners with religious headwear need to have a waiver to participate.

Her hijab is a part of her that she doesn’t want to sacrifice to compete, Abukaram said.

“Personally, my hijab is like my nose. It’s so important and it’s a part of me,” she said. “The thought of not wearing it and of having to choose something other than my hijab, having to choose to do something else and having to warn people that me and my hijab are coming to this race is disgusting and disheartening.”

Since the disqualification last weekend, Flowers got the waiver letter approved and Abukaram will be competing in the regionals this Saturday. She says both her coach and teammates have been incredibly supportive. “I have the best team in the world and I couldn’t ask for a better coach,” she said.

The number of Islamophobic incidents in the United States has spiked following the election of President Donald Trump, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a leading Muslim advocacy group.

Critics say that Trump’s rhetoric and policies against Muslims before and after his election has emboldened far-right groups and promoted anti-Muslim hate crimes across the country.

Some scholars say Trump’s travel ban on people from several Muslim-majority countries was aimed at spreading Islamophobia and demonizing Muslims.

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