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Woman weightlifter fights to compete in hijab

9 June 2011 Yahoo News 13 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

A 35-year-old weightlifter is battling to be able to compete in the sport she loves while wearing a hijab instead of the body-hugging uniform that’s required.

Kulsoom Abdullah, who was born in the United States to Pakistani parents, discovered weightlifting at her gym, Crossfit, in Atlanta in 2008. She entered her first open competition last year, and was thrilled to find out that she was actually pretty good in the competitive sport. She can lift 70 kilos (about 154 pounds) to her shoulders, and 60 kilos (or about 132 pounds) over her head, in a move called the “clean-and-jerk.” Last December, she qualified for the American Open Weightlifting Championships, which would have been her first national competition.

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 organizers told told them no.

Abdullah talked to some lawyer friends, who told her that other athletes had won their bids to wear different clothing for religious reasons. So she tried again, this time personally writing to USA Weightlifting with her request, and asking the group if it could compromise on a uniform.

Officials with the group wrote back and said they had to follow the rules of the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF), which mandates collarless uniforms and doesn’t allow exceptions.

“I was really disappointed because I was really looking forward to it,” she told The Lookout. “I had never thought I would qualify at the national level.”

>> Continue reading: Woman weightlifter fights to compete in hijab


  1. Anything they can do to keep a good Muslimah down, they’ll do it….

    I wonder how many adherent Muslims are in that Federation and/or helped to set the standards of the requirements of the uniform.

    AS IF a Muslimah has an advantage by wearing hijab! Of course, they gave no substantive reason for denying her request.

  2. I understand people having different religious views and respect that; HOWEVER…. rules are in place for many reasons, and in my person opinion and it is mine alone.

    I feel that all of the BS that is going on in the world with respect to religion and everyone having to be politically correct is total nonsense.

    Any country that is NOT the U.S. of A. does NOT bow to outside threats or conflicts. THey have their rules and they are simple, if you are in OUR country you abide by OUR rules; plane and simple…. enough said.

    Only in the U.S. of A. will you find such stupid and utterly a waste of time and effort spent on meaningless topics.

    In this specific case, this woman joined a sport and she is not stupid nor mentally challenged…. therefore she has read the rules governing participation…. guess what; you want to participate…… FOLLOW the RULES…. you have a PhD you are 35 AND you live with your family? something is not right there…

  3. I am so sick of this crap.

    There are rules and regulations that govern us all. They are put there for one reason or another. In the case of the Muslim basketball player wanting to participate while wearing a hijab, there was a safety issue. I can’t explain why, I don’t care why, if a rule or regulation is put into place I will adhere to that rule or regulation. If you can’t abide by the rules and regulations that are put into place then don’t participate. What’s next? A Muslim woman complaining that she can’t compete in a beauty contest if she wears a full burqa? Give me a break and let this women find another sport to compete in. Stop with the whining and crying. Get this straight; your crazy religious beliefs don’t take precedent.

  4. If you only read what is presented without going to the remainder of the article you kind of feel sorry for this woman. If you read on, however, you will find that the elbows and knees must be uncovered as they must be in a locked position to recieve credit for the weight. Judges must be able to see these parts of the body to render a decision and points. I do not see how they can rule in her favor if this is a basic requirement of the sport. If the covering is for the purpose of the modest then this sport is not a sport for a modest person as parts of the body must be uncovered for all to see if she is to participate.

  5. ^
    It’s funny that you’re so sick of something that has ABSOLUTELY no effect in your life. You assume that all rules and regulations are completely warranted and fair to begin with, so no one with a different perpective of what is fair and neccessary has any right to oppose the status quo. You seem to be perfectly happy that these rules and regulations are disenfranchising a whole groups of women that want to be active and participate like anyone else. And our “crazy religious beliefs” are no more insane than a secular culture that teaches women to hate their bodies if they don’t match a perfect unattainable standard. If someone decides that her body isn’t for public consumption, and that she wants people to watch her play sports because she’s talented, not because she has a nice butt, I really don’t see why anyone else has a right to tell her which parts of her body she has to expose.

    Most Muslimahs who participate in sports in places where hijab isn’t such a foreign/ scary thing do so without any problems. I know plenty of talented basketball and soccer players that wear hijab and no one cares. The people who claim that hijab presents a choking risk have no valid support for this and don’t understand that many hijabs made for active women do not even wrap around the neck.

    Now, if exposure of the body were germane to the activity in qestion, then you might have a point.

    Also, her skin doesn’t have to be exposed to know whether or not her joints are locked. She can wear leggins and a tight fitting undershirt. As long is the fabric isn’t so loose that the judges are unable to tell whether or not she’s lifting correctly, then there should be no problem.

  6. Maybe Hannah and maybe not. I am not an official of this sport, so I will not assume to know if skin tight is all that is needed to determine the criteria to award points for this event, or if there is a way to cheat given that the joints are covered.

    Part of being in a sport is fairness in a competition. This means that in most sports everyone has the same uniform requirements so that other than physical skill and ability everyone has the same handicaps or advantages the uniform provides. The uniformity of dress make for a more pleasing event and allows for organizers to help control the message the event may imply. After all look at all the referees that were suspended simply for wearing pink whistles in support of Breast Cancer Research. They harmed no one but almost lost their jobs over it.

    From what I understand the wearing of this attire is voluntary and not mandated by the Koran. If the Hiijab is not a requirement as set forth in the Koran but a personal choice by an individual then no exception should be made for this woman. It may be a traditional choice but it is not a religious one and should not qualify under the terms of religious accommodation.

  7. @ Criley401

    While I don’t think this is the forum for this discussion, I believe hijab is prescribed by the Quran. The women who wear hijab do so because they percieve it to be a part of their religion that they wish to observe.

  8. @ Criley401

    While I don’t think this is the forum for this discussion, I believe hijab is prescribed by the Quran. The women who wear hijab do so because they percieve it to be an aspect of their religion that they wish to observe. And it isn’t up to the state, or a sports organization for that matter, to make decisions about what is and isn’t part of a person’s individual practice of his or her faith.

    What this controversy boils down to:

    Women who wear a piece of fabric on their head do not deserve to play sports. It’s hurtful and silly.

  9. Sorry for the duplicate! Not sure what happened there 🙂

  10. “What this controversy boils down to:
    Women who wear a piece of fabric on their head do not deserve to play sports. It’s hurtful and silly.”

    That statement is ridiculous. Can’t you get it through your head that there are rules and laws that must be followed in life? If those rules and laws interfere with your religion, then steer clear.

  11. Can’t you get it through your head that not all rules are fair? My goodness. Try making that statement to blacks in the 60s…rules are being made and enforced by a narrow, singular perspective that is directly excluding perfectly talented athletes from participating.

    Why? Because she has a piece of cloth on her head.


  13. hannah, i agree all rules are not fair. what did your god say….

    Book 041, Number 6985:
    Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.


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