Debarred from contest for wearing hijab in U.S.
By Narayan Lakshman
Kulsoom Abdullah (35) can deadlift 111 kg and snatch over 47.5 kg without breaking sweat. But the Atlanta-based weightlifter, also a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering, is struggling with a weightier issue — clothing.
While Ms. Abdullah has already made a name for herself competing in the 48-kg and 53-kg weight classes, the future of her career hung in the balance this month after USA Weightlifting, a sporting associations affiliated with the U.S. Olympic Committee, debarred her from joining a national competitions in Ohio and Iowa because of her hijab.
USA Weightlifting reportedly told Ms. Abdullah that as per International Weightlifting Federation rules, suits that covered either the knees or elbows are forbidden since “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”.
After the disappointing judgment came she told media, “I'd hate to think that just because you dress a certain way, you can't participate in sports... I don't want other women who dress like me to say, ‘I can't get involved in that sport' and get discouraged.”
Yet after her case came to light and organisations such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations spoke out on her behalf, some good news emerged in recent weeks — the International Weightlifting Federation agreed to “consider her request” to allow weightlifters to cover their heads, necks, arms and legs during competitions.
The progress came after CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad wrote to USOC Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, saying, “No athlete should be forced to choose between faith and sport... Muslim women seek to participate in all aspects of American society, including sporting activities, and should not face artificial and arbitrary barriers to that participation.”
According to reports Ms. Abdullah was thrilled by the development, saying, “The fact that it's going to even be discussed, I think that's really great.”
The IWF's technical committee began deliberations on June 26, as part of a review, in Penang, Malaysia. A decision could be announced within days, reports said.