Muslimah Weightlifter Intends to Compete While Being Modestly Dressed
Kulsoom Abdullah, a 35-year-old Atlantan, started carrying weights a few years ago and as her love for the male-dominated sport grew, she started joining several local weightlifting competitions.
However, she has been barred from joining a competition in Iowa next month because of her Muslim dress. In previous competitions, Kulsoom has worn loose-fitting exercise pants, a tight-fitting long-sleeve shirt with a T-shirt over it, and the head scarf. In next month’s US senior nationals however, International Weightlifting Federation rules 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.
In response, Kulsoom says that her tight-fitting shirt will allow judges to get a good look at her elbows and as for her pants, “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.”
Kulsoom isn’t the only one to have had issues with Islamic dress in sports though. Just last week, the Iranian female soccer team was banned from playing Jordan in an Olympic qualifier due to their headscarves. FIFA’s decision in banning headscarves were on two grounds: firstly, no religious symbols are allowed and secondly, they believe the headscarf presents a choking risk.
But Farideh Shojae, head of women’s affairs at the Iranian Football Federation, or FFIRI, said the team’s specially designed athletic headscarves are in line with FIFA policy.
“We made the required corrections and played a match afterwards,” she said. “We played the next round and were not prevented from doing so, and they didn’t find anything wrong. That meant that there are no obstacles in our path, and that we could participate in the Olympics.”
While they continue to struggle with such rulings and prohibitions in sport, we hope that the result will eventually go the way of hijab-wearing Rugaya Al-Ghasara, the first Bahrain-born athlete to win a major international athletics gold medal in the women’s 200m finals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha. Another Muslimah athlete that shines at her sport, with her hijab on, is 17-year-old Bilqis Abdul Qadir, a basketball player. Bilqis is the first Massachusetts high school basketball player – boy or girl – to score more than 3,000 points in a career.
Ameera is the Editor of Muzlimbuzz.sg, a chronic reader and a news junkie. Inspiration also catches her at the most quotidian of moments alhamdulillah.