Runner disqualified for wearing hijab prompts state senator to introduce bill protecting religious freedom

Noor Alexandria Abukaram.jpg
Posted at 4:35 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 16:35:06-05

TOLEDO, Ohio — A bill inspired by Noor Alexandria Abukaram, a Toledo-area teenager who was disqualified last year from a high school track competition for wearing a hijab, was introduced in the Ohio Senate Wednesday to protect freedom of religious expression.

The legislation, referred to as SB-88, seeks to end the requirement that forces an individual who wants to wear a religious head covering or clothing article to ask special permission from the Ohio High School Athletic Association in advance of a competition.

SB-288 was introduced by State Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green).

Currently, OHSAA rules state that athletes are not allowed to wear a head covering unless they have been granted permission by officials prior to participating in the event.

"Freedom of religion is a fundamental right and civil liberty in this country," said Gavarone. "My hope is that through this legislation and Noor's story we will be able to ensure that no one, regardless of religious affiliation, has to choose between playing a sport or their religious beliefs."

Last year, Abukaram, who was a junior runner at Northview High School in Slyvania, was disqualified from a 5k race for violating a uniform regulation.

According to ABC News, Abukaram said she had run in multiple races prior to the 5K and never had an issue. "I was completely humiliated by, like, everybody knowing that I just ran my PR (personal record), and it wasn't on record," Abukaram told ABC News.

SB-288 has moved to the Senate committee for review. “The whole idea from the start is to inspire real change so that this never happens to anyone ever again," said Abukaram. "Working with Senator Gavarone to draft this bill is another step towards real change.”