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CAIR Offers USOC Language for New Weightlifting Hijab Policy

(WASHINGTON, D.C., 6/20/11) — A prominent national Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization today offered the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) draft language for a policy change on Islamic attire (hijab) for consideration by the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) when it meets later this month in Malaysia.

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the USOC requested language for a rule change that would help the IWF resolve the case of a Muslim weightlifter in Georgia who wishes to compete wearing modest Islamic attire (hijab).
CAIR: U.S. Olympic Committee Asks for Review of Hijab Policy

Following intervention by CAIR, the USOC said it would ask the IWF’s technical committee to review a policy preventing the Muslim athlete, 35-year-old Kulsoom Abdullah (, from competing in the USA Weightlifting Senior Nationals to be held this July in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
USA Weightlifting is a United States Olympic Committee National Governing Body (NGB). Officials of USA Weightlifting cite IWF rules in barring Abdullah from competition.
The IWF committee’s recommendation will be presented to the body’s executive board, which meets the next day in Penang, Malaysia. [Abdullah is seeking to travel to Malaysia to offer a presentation on the issue of religious attire at the meeting.]
The draft language submitted to the USOC for consideration by the IWF committee states:
“Officials will provide reasonable accommodation for the religious practices of competitors on condition that the accommodation requested does not provide a competitive advantage.”
In his letter to USOC CEO Scott Blackmun, CAIR Staff Attorney Gadeir Abbas wrote:

“We believe that discriminatory international rules and regulations can never supersede American laws and traditions guaranteeing religious freedom. The issue of religious attire for athletes can be addressed successfully in a mutually-agreeable manner that maintains the legitimate rights and needs of all parties.
“Therefore, if the IWF rules against allowing reasonable religious accommodation, we request that the USOC and USA Weightlifting respect our nation’s longstanding tradition of religious inclusion by allowing Ms. Abdullah to compete wearing hijab.”

Abbas said that a 15-year-old Canadian Muslim soccer referee was recently told she could not perform her job while wearing hijab. Earlier this month, an Iranian women’s soccer team was barred from an Olympic qualifying match in Jordan because of the athletes’ modest attire.

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.

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CONTACT: CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, 202-744-7726, or 202-488-8787, E-Mail:; CAIR Communications Coordinator Amina Rubin, 202-488-8787, or 202-341-4171, E-Mail:


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