Saturday, June 25, 2011

Super woman fights for hijab

Super Woman Kulsoom Abdullah took up weightlifting a couple of years ago, i.e. for becoming stronger, and she quickly became passionate for the male-dominated sport. However, she has been barred from entering the US Senior Nationals, just because she wears hijab.

“I’d hate to think that just because you dress a certain way, you can’t participate in sports,” Kulsoom said.

“I don’t want other women who dress like me to say, ‘I can’t get involved in that sport’ and get discouraged. It would be nice to have an environment where it wouldn’t be an issue of how you dress or having different beliefs and faiths.”

She’s right. It’s time for sports to show the rest of society how to bridge the gap between legitimate concerns and religious tolerance.

Kulsoom got a bit of good news recently when USA Weightlifting agreed to take her case to the IWF.

This, of course, is a bigger issue than any one sport, any single athlete.
It’s an ongoing struggle in sports, with some compromise, but not nearly enough.

Muslim women have competed in track and field wearing neck-to-ankle bodysuits and the traditional headscarf known as a hijab, most notably Roqaya Al-Gassra of Bahrain, who made it to the semifinals of the 200 meters at the Beijing Olympics.

Every religion has its own peculiarities, which might seem odd to those on the outside but are perfectly reasonable to the faithful. Stifling religious traditions and practices is a very slippery slope indeed, one that sport should make every effort to avoid.

Kulsoom only wants to abide by her beliefs when she’s snatching a bar full of weights above her head. When first starting out, she was allowed to enter local meets wearing garb that made her comfortable on the inside and out: Loose-fitting exercise pants, a tight-fitting long-sleeve shirt with a T-shirt over it, and the head scarf.

As she attempted to move up to higher-level competitions, she ran up against International Weightlifting Federation rules, which forbid suits that cover either the knees or elbows because judges must be able to see that both have been locked out to complete a lift.

OK, that’s understandable. But Kulsoom said a tight-fitting shirt allows judges to get a good look at her elbows. And, if it meant ensuring a level playing field, she’d certainly be willing to wear a leg covering that conforms to her religion but allows the judges to determine whether she’s completed a lift. Considering all the advances in athletic apparel, that shouldn’t be a major issue.
Seems perfectly reasonable.

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