Muslim Runner Banned Over Uniform

Posted: January 24, 2008 in running

Yahoo news had an interesting news item of a high school track star has been disqualified from a meet because officials said the custom-made outfit she wears to conform to her Muslim faith violated competition rules.

Strict Muslim

Juashaunna Kelly a high school runner in US  custom-designed her, one-piece blue and orange unitard, which covers her head, arms, torso and legs. The outfit allows her to compete while adhering to her Muslim faith, which forbids displaying any skin other than her face and hands.

This is another case of the culture wars of our time. Even Kenyan runners like Catherine Ndereba have previously expressed their displeasure in having to wear the running shorts. As a committed christian she deems them too scanty.

Sports + Flesh = Profits

The formula of having women scantily dressed in sports has been used by sports promoters to boost business, think of pro wrestling and beach volleyball. When Sepp Blatter, President of Soccer governing body was asked on how to promote women soccer, he provoked the wrath of feminist when he infamously said “they should wear tight fitting shorts”

While women in the west are comfortable dressed in bikini, in Africa, Middle East and parts of Asia women are still forbiden to reveal their bodies. This has discouraged many women from participating in sports. It is not surprising the middle east doesnt have a noteworthy sport woman that we know.

If women in Africa and Middle East are to fulfill their sporting potential, social rules on dressing have to be relaxed. If not, then the women will have to be creative like Jaushaunna Kelly to participate in sports and enjoy the benefits of health and vitality.

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Comments
  1. franflipp says:

    Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008 GAZETTE.NET
    Officials: Religion not issue in runner’s exclusion
    Incident involving the color of a Muslim girl’s uniform ‘has
    been blown out of proportion,’ District administrator says
    by Chay Rao and Stephanie Siegel | Staff Writers
    Montgomery school officials recently came under fire for being insensitive and even racist after a Muslim girl was told she could not participate in a county track meet because of her uniform, which covered her head, arms and legs in accordance with Muslim customs.
    But according to Montgomery County Public Schools officials, religion had nothing to do with the ruling made by an event referee and MCPS employees had no authority to overrule the decision.
    ‘‘This has been a colossal misunderstanding,” said Kate Harrison, MCPS spokeswoman.
    Juashuanna Kelly, a senior at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, was told she could not run in the Jan. 12 Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet because the garment she wore did not conform to color standards. Kelly, who is Muslim, was wearing a half-blue and half-orange unitard and head covering under her track uniform.
    National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Indoor Track and Field guidelines state that a runner must wear a single-colored tracksuit under a school jersey — a rule to help identify runners at the finish line in case of close finishes.
    ‘‘The uniform rules are clearly stated within the rule book. … If she had worn a solid color, she would have been fine. It was something that could have been avoided early on,” said Becky Oakes, assistant director of NFHS. ‘‘No one wants the athlete DQ’d.”
    Kelly, who had worn the special uniform to other meets, including the Montgomery Invitational last year, had been granted a waiver for meets in Washington, according to Allen Chin, director of athletics for District of Columbia Public Schools.
    ‘‘I feel sorry for the young girl, but frankly, this is something that has been blown out of proportion,” Chin said.
    After being told she could participate if she wore a single-colored, long-sleeved T-shirt over the unitard, Kelly and her coach, Tony Bowden, decided to withdraw from the race, Harrison said. Kelly was not disqualified, according to Harrison.
    ‘‘Religion had no factor in the decision over whether she could participate,” she said.
    Bo Meyers, a hired official who is qualified as a ‘‘master referee” by USA Track and Field, the national governing body for track and field sports, made the ruling, Harrison said.
    Oakes said Kelly had time to make a change if she wanted. ‘‘Everything was handled properly by meet officials according to the rules,” she said.
    However, for many in the Muslim community, barring Kelly from the meet because of the colors of her unitard was the wrong decision.
    ‘‘The people who made this decision were very insensitive,” said Rashid Makhdoom, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Muslim Council, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting Muslim interests and involvement in the county. ‘‘I think there should be some sensitivity training. There is some feeling that there might be some kind of race [discrimination] involved.”
    Harrison said training to make employees aware of cultural and religious differences is already required for school system employees; however, Meyers and other athletic officials are not considered MCPS employees.
    One MCPS employee who was criticized for the decision was meet director Tom Rogers, a track and field coach at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda. Rogers was blamed by some for upholding the decision not to let Kelly participate.
    ‘‘There has been an enormous barrage of angry and even threatening letters,” Harrison said.
    But it was never Rogers’ role to say who was allowed to compete, she said.
    ‘‘His role was as an administrator, to take care of the business aspects,” Harrison said.
    Rogers was in charge of making sure the track and equipment was ready, sending out the invitations and hiring the officials, among other duties.
    Makhdoom believes an exception could have been made for Kelly.
    ‘‘She has sacrificed quite a bit of her religious beliefs and compromised to participate,” he said.
    ‘‘Our religious beliefs are such that women, especially, are not supposed to show the body. I would call it a compromise,” he said of the garment Kelly wore. While it covered her skin, it was still tighter than clothes traditional Muslim women wear, he said.
    The perception that Kelly was singled out for her religion is damaging for community relations between Muslims and others, he said.
    In years past, several runners have competed in the Montgomery Invitational wearing head coverings, including Shakira Raheem, who competed for Albert Einstein High School before graduating in 2007, and Fatima Abbas, who ran for Rogers at Walter Johnson before graduating in 1999.
    ‘‘The head covering itself was never a violation,” Rogers said. ‘‘Fatima ran with a hejab for four years, and she never had any problems.”
    He said there was another athlete, a boys hurdler from James Robinson High School in Virginia, who was not allowed to compete at the Montgomery Invitational this month because of uniform violations similar to Kelly’s.
    ‘‘The torso of [Kelly’s] undergarment was multicolored, which was the same problem that the kid from Robinson had,” Rogers said. ‘‘The implication was religious discrimination, but that was absolutely not the case. It is a very one-sided view that has been out there and that has been hurtful.”

    Maryland Community Newspapers Online
    http://www.gazette.net/stories/013008/montnew64001_32378.shtml

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