Issue 266, Friday 24 June 2011 - 22 Rajab 1432
USA: Muslim woman weightlifter banned from US tournament
By Elham Asaad Buaras
Kulsoom Abdullah banned from competing in the US Weightlifting Senior Nationals
USA Weightlifting has agreed to take the case of hijab wearing weightlifter to the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) meeting in Malaysia on June 26.
Kulsoom Abdullah is banned from competing in the US Weightlifting Senior Nationals tournament this July because her knees and elbows are covered.
Writing on her web site Abdullah said, “It is like saying, if you are different, you can not compete. I am not asking people to change, I am just asking to participate and be able to dress the way I do.”
Under the rules “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.”
US Olympic Committee Sokesman, Mark Jones, says the group is committed to being “inclusive” but that it will up to the IWF to decide if the modified uniform would provide a “competitive advantage.”
Abdullah, 35, qualified for the American Open Weightlifting Championships last December.
But when her coaches asked whether she would be able to wear her modified uniform which covers everything but her face, hands, and feet, the organisers told them no.
In a letter to the US Olympic Committee’s Chief Executive Officer Scott Blackmun, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) wrote: “US Weightlifting has apparently rejected Ms Abdullah’s repeated requests for accommodation of her sincere religious beliefs and practices...As you know, the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act requires that US Weightlifting not discriminate based on ‘race, colour, religion, sex, age, or national origin’ in order to maintain its status as a national governing body.
“It also states that an athlete must be given ‘fair notice and opportunity for a hearing to any amateur athlete, coach, trainer, manager, administrator, or official before declaring the individual ineligible to participate.’”
In a statement to The Muslim News CAIR National Executive Director, Nihad Awad, said, “We appreciate the United States Olympic Committee’s prompt action in support of religious diversity in sport and will monitor the results of the meetings in Malaysia…We believe there is always a way to maintain the legitimate rules of any sport, while offering athletes reasonable religious accommodation.”