The Crescent Report

January 17, 2008

Admiring the Faith of a Young Sister and Standing With Her

Filed under: Muslim Americans — Tags: , , , , — Imam Mahdi Bray @ 1:04 am

 

By Alan Goldenbach

Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 16, 2008; Page A01

Juashaunna Kelly, a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who has the fastest mile and two-mile times of any girls’ runner in the District this winter, was disqualified from Saturday’s Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.

Kelly was wearing the same uniform she has worn for the past three seasons while running for Theodore Roosevelt‘s cross-country and track teams: a custom-made, one-piece blue and orange unitard that covers her head, arms, torso and legs. On top of the unitard, Kelly wore the same orange and blue T-shirt and shorts as her teammates.

Click here to read on

I will keep you posted as MAS Freedom becomes involved in this case insha’Allah.  We will honor the commitment of this young sister with a commitment to defend her right to practice her faith and compete at the same time.

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4 Comments »

  1. I felt compelled to write to someone regarding this young sister and the hurdles that she faces not only on the field but on the sidelines, in the street etc.
    She has my full support – and I encourage her to continue to be strong in her faith (I am a southern baptist), and know that sometimes, faith is all we have!

    It is so sad that people can not use common sense at times when it is obvilously needed the most. In the case of the officials that ruled – Common Sense says, you let her run previously in the same outfit…let her run now.

    It is my hope that she can still be extended an invitation to compete in the New Balance Collegiate Invitational in New York on Feb. 8-9
    I will be looking forward to someone with some common sense to step up and give this Sister the opportunity that was unjustly taken from her!
    You are in my prayers.
    Debbie

    Comment by Debbie Buskey Backhouse — January 17, 2008 @ 6:38 pm

  2. NFHS Responds to Maryland Track Situation
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    Contact: Becky Oakes
    INDIANAPOLIS, IN (January 17, 2008) – Last Saturday, Juashuanna Kelly, a runner on the girls track team at Theodore Roosevelt High School in Washington, D.C., elected not to compete in the Montgomery Invitational indoor track and field meet in Maryland after meet officials advised her that she would need to replace her undergarment because it violated track and field playing rules published by the National Federation of State High School Association (NFHS).
    The NFHS issues the following statement regarding this incident:
    “The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the national leadership organization for high school sports and fine arts activities, writes playing rules in 17 sports for boys and girls competition at the high school level, including track and field.
    “Rule 4-3-1-d of the NFHS Track and Field and Cross Country Rules Book states that ‘Any visible garment(s) worn underneath the uniform top or bottom shall be a single, solid color and unadorned except for 1) a single school name or insignia no more than 2¼ square inches with no dimension more than 2¼ inches and 2) a single, visible manufacturer’s logo as per NFHS rules.’
    “Using preventive officiating, meet officials at the Montgomery Invitational checked uniforms prior to the events to make sure they complied with NFHS uniform rules. Since Kelly’s one-piece undergarment was multi-colored (blue, orange, white), it was in violation of the uniform rules. The meet officials did not disqualify Kelly; they informed her she would have to replace the multi-colored undergarment with a single-colored undergarment, an option which she declined and, thus, did not compete.
    “The head covering, which was a part of Kelly’s one-piece undergarment, nor the length of the undergarment were in violation of NFHS rules. She could have worn the same style of undergarment, with a head covering, as long as the undergarment was one color throughout the entire piece of clothing. The NFHS track uniform rule was put in place for consistency across the board and for ease in identifying runners at the finish line. Multi-colored undergarments cause greater identification problems for track officials.
    “The track uniform is a point of emphasis by the NFHS this year in an effort to have more consistent and widespread enforcement of the rule. Because of her Muslim faith, there were reports that her uniform undergarment was ruled unacceptable on religious grounds. While Kelly’s faith requires her to cover all parts of the body except her hands and face, a single-colored undergarment with a hood would have been acceptable both from an NFHS rules standpoint as well as meeting the requirements of her Muslim faith. http://www.nfhs.org/web/2008/01/nfhs_responds_to_maryland_track.aspx

    Comment by fran — January 29, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

  3. 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

    Comment by franflipp — February 3, 2008 @ 8:19 pm

  4. “I will keep you posted as MAS Freedom becomes involved in this case insha’Allah. We will honor the commitment of this young sister with a commitment to defend her right to practice her faith and compete at the same time.”

    I am respectfully inquiring about any developments in this case ….

    Comment by franflipp — February 11, 2008 @ 12:18 am


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