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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Muslim weightlifter and Atlanta resident proves hijab isn't a barrier

All of those people who see a Muslim woman in a hijab and immediately think "my, what an oppressed and voiceless woman" need to take a closer look at Kulsoom Abdullah. The Atlanta resident and Georgia Tech grad last Friday became the first woman to compete in the U.S.A. National Weightlifting Championships while wearing clothing that fully covers her legs, arms and head.

Since late last year, Abdullah had urged the International Weightlifting Federation to change its dress requirements that prohibited her from competing while wearing modest attire required by her faith. (The IWF requires that judges be able to see an athlete's knees and elbows.)

Abdullah partnered with the Council on American-Islamic Relations to change the rule. A successful appeal before the U.S. Olympic Committee helped pave the way for a change to the dress requirement. In late June the weightlifting organization agreed to allow lifters to wear a "unitard" that covers the arms and legs. Soon after, Abdullah began training for the July 15 competition.

Abdullah finished fifth out of six competitors in her weight class. But she acknowledged that changing the rules meant more to her than anything she will actually achieve at the championship.

"I think that was the biggest thing for me," she said. "So even if I don't do my best or my personal records, I think that was the big thing for me. The accomplishment was to get started competing."

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