Congresswoman Ilhan Omar Voices Support for High School Athlete Disqualified for Wearing Hijab

Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar spoke out in support of a high school student who was disqualified from a cross-country race for wearing a hijab.

Noor Abukaram, a runner for Northview High School in Sylvania, Ohio, was told that her times from school-sanctioned 5K race last Saturday would not count, local TV station WTOL reported.

The 16-year-old told WTOL that before the race, her teammate had been warned that her shorts were not in accordance with the required uniform and that she needed to change in order to run. Abukaram said it wasn't until after the race that she was told her hijab was out of uniform, and Abukaram was disqualified.

Hijab-wearing women and girls don’t need permission to exist.

Noor ran her personal best this season, only to be told it didn’t count because she made the choice to wear a hijab.

I’m standing with her. Every rule that is ignorant of religious freedom must be overturned. https://t.co/rbGMhgNZ3T

— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) October 26, 2019

In her tweet Saturday, Omar wrote: "Hijab-wearing women and girls don't need permission to exist...Noor ran her personal best this season, only to be told it didn't count because she made the choice to wear a hijab...I'm standing with her. Every rule that is ignorant of religious freedom must be overturned."

According to The Toledo Blade, Abukaram crossed the finish line at 22:22, her personal best to date.

"My heart dropped," she recalled. "I felt like something horrible happened to me, something that I always thought could happen, but never has happened. I think I was mostly embarrassed, because like I never expected that to happen."

The high school junior now requires a letter authorizing her to wear a hijab during races. The Ohio High School Athletics Association (OHSAA) doubled down on their decision to disqualify Abukaram from last week's race.

"Cross country runners may participate in competitions with religious headwear, provided the runner has obtained a waiver from the OHSAA and submitted to the head official before the race, since it is a change to the OHSAA uniform regulations," wrote OHSAA Communications Director Tim Stried in a statement to the Blade.

"It's a part of me, I'm not going to take it off so I can run!" Abukaram said. "I just don't want this to happen to anyone else, like any girls—girls younger than me that are wearing hijab. I don't want them to ever have to worry or to have to write a letter so that they can go run."

But, as reported by the Blade on Thursday, OHSAA is considering revising the rules about the religious waiver. Stried said: "The OHSAA is also already looking at this specific uniform regulation to potentially modify it in the future, so that religious headwear does not require a waiver."

Since then, Abukuram reportedly filed a waiver that would allow her to wear a hijab in order to compete.

Ilhan omar
Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar speaks at a rally hosted by Progressive Democrats of America in Washing, D.C. on September 26, 2019. Zach Gibson/Getty Images