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High school cross-country runner calls for religious expression legislation in sport

Noor Alexandria Abukaram, who was disqualified from a cross-country race for wearing a hijab, has called for a change of Ohio's legislation

Photo by: Noor Abukaram/Instagram

In October 2019, Noor Alexandria Abukaram, 16, was disqualified from her district cross-country meet for wearing a hijab without submitting a waiver ahead of the race. According to the OHSAA (Ohio High School Athletic Association) rules at the time, a form must be completed ahead of a competition if a runner is planning to compete in religious headwear and is otherwise considered a uniform violation. However, this rule has finally changed.

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Eight months later, Abukaram successfully advocated for Senate Bill 288, which passed unanimously on June 10 and allows religious apparel when competing or participating in extracurricular activities. This includes any rules, like those Abukaram technically violated, that require advanced approval or written waivers for clothing.

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RELATED: Runner disqualified from high school cross-country meet for wearing a hijab

Abukaram told the Ohio Capital Journal, that living her experience helped her understand her place as an athlete in America. She also expressed that she and her sister feel anxiety around wearing their hijabs in public situations – the sports field at her high school is a place where that anxiety has hopefully been alleviated.

Following the hearing, Abukaram received an apology from Senator Vernon Sykes for the insensitive policy.