ATLANTA – An Atlanta Muslim woman would be allowed to compete in international weightlifting tournaments while observing the modest dress of her faith as the sport’s world governing body modified its rules to accommodate her Muslim beliefs, the CNN reported on Thursday, June 30.
“Weightlifting is an Olympic Sport open for all athletes to participate without discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, or national origin in accordance with the principles of the Olympic Charter and values,” Tamas Ajan, IWF president, said in a statement released Wednesday announcing the change.
The change of rules was first prompted by an American Muslim woman, Kulsoom Abdullah, who wanted to participate in the tournaments in the United States, including one coming up in July.
But USA Weightlifting informed her that those events are governed by IWF rules, which at that time precluded her dressing in keeping with her beliefs.
Abdullah, who holds a doctorate in electrical and computer engineering, is not an Olympic athlete, but enjoys lifting weights.
She can deadlift 245 pounds (111 kg) and get up 105 pounds (47.5 kg) in the snatch, in which the competitor lifts the barbell from the floor to over her head in a single motion.
Abdullah generally wears loose, long pants past the ankles, a long-sleeve, fitted shirt with a loose T-shirt over it, and a hijab covering her hair.
The outfits, officially called “costumes”, worn at competitions must be collarless and must not cover the elbows or knees, according to the IWF’s technical and competition rules.
Under the new modification, Abdullah would be allowed to make her dream come true and compete in American and international weightlifting tournaments.
“This rule modification has been considered in the spirit of fairness, equality and inclusion,” Ajan added.
Abdullah hailed the decision as a great victory, hoping it will increase Muslim women participation in sports.
“I am hopeful for more participation in sports for women,” she said in a statement cited by the Daily Times on Friday, July 1.
Gaining the approval of the IWF, she dreams of extending the new rules to the Olympics.
“I have a positive outlook on getting costume details finalized for Olympics Lifting competitions,” she said.
“Additionally, I hope other sporting organizations will follow example to allow greater inclusion and participation in their respective sport.”
Abdullah cited the recent ruling by FIFA that the Islamic dress of the Iranian women football team broke its rules, which ban the manifestation of religious symbols.
The FIFA ruling dashed dreams of young Iranian women to play in the 2012 London Olympics.
“One example is FIFA’s disqualification of the Iranian women’s team.”
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which raised Abdullah’s case to the US Olympic Committee (USOC), applauded the IWF’s ruling to modify its policy on competitor apparel to allow modest Islamic attire.
A day after the IWF decision, Abdullah filed to compete in the national weightlifting championships coming in July 15-17 in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
“We welcome her participation in our most prestigious domestic event,” USA Weightlifting CEO John Duff said, The Washington Post reported on Friday.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.