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An Appropriate Coverup

Our Readers Who Comment may be getting bored with the primary election process, because far fewer of them are bothering to weigh in on Mitt Romney's victory in Michigan last night than we saw after the Iowa and New Hampshire events. But the RWC have started quite a conversation about a Theodore Roosevelt High School senior who was disqualified from a Montgomery County, Md., indoor track meet after officials said her Muslim clothing violated national competition rules.

By far the majority of the comments call the situation ridiculous and many label it as the product of small minds. There is a smattering of intolerance from a few who comment; they are quickly answered by other RWC. A few find fault with the technical accuracy of the story, saying the runner was not actually disqualified, but chose not to run after being told she would be disqualified if she did not change her uniform. A self-identified "MoCoCoach" argues with several points in the article and suggests some facts are missing.

Such questions cannot be ignored, but the central theme -- that an accomplished high school athlete did not run in an event because of a uniform choice she made to respect the tenets of her religion -- seems to be me to be the central concern here.

We'll start with kj-53, who wrote, "This needs to be examined in detail. It sure sounds to me like unfairness was involved, and weak excuses were given for excluding her, which should have been put in writing. Why not let her race and if the denial holds up in court THEN discount her time? Unfair."

karlanne1 said, "The actions by the meet officials are appalling. This is really shameful."

And SSRes wrote, "Yet another case of school officials suffering from smallbrain disease. Morons!"

But mccxxiii wrote, "This seems confusing and possibly a bit misleading. The officials are saying that the problem was the color of the uniform. That has nothing to do with her religion. And both the mother and the meet director seem to be saying that the girl could have run if she had put a plain T-shirt over it. If that's the case, then why is this being billed as a "religious discrimination" story?..."

goodegg said "I fail to see any religious discrimination. The girl chose not to wear a uniform as required for the competition. Therefore, she was barred from it. Unless you believe that athletes can determine the rules of competition, I fail to see a problem here."

[In fact, the only time the words "religious discrimination" were used in the story was in a quote from an official who said, "It has nothing to do with religious discrimination."]

Lavrat2000 asked, "...why are Muslims always asking for special exception because of their religion? Maybe they should be living in a country in which their faith's clothing restrictions are usual, and customary rather than ask for exceptions to be made for them..."

To which 1fasthoo replied, "maybe you should move to a country where it's ok to not be tolerant of others and where it is ok to be pea-brained and generalize about Muslims (and others)."

rogerr1 said, "I cannot imagine that any of the other girls running could have cared less about her uniform. Use some common sense and let the girl compete."

hoosiermandarin said, "I work on the apparent naive assemption that that track officials are of some modest educational level that would suggest a distinction between muslim and non muslims and their attire. This is beyond belief. Fortunately she did't wear artificial limbs..."

Usama1 wrote, "...The Quran specifically says to have garments cover your body, including the woman's "ornaments" and breasts. I greatly respect the young woman for taking a stand to please God."

But pjvm said, "Shame on Roosevelt's coach. S/he knew the rules but failed to enforce them on his own team. As for Ms. Kelly, "when in Rome ..."

MoCoCoach's entry is extended and I won't attempt to summarize it here, but will quote what I think is the salient point, where the coach said, "...This was a case of preventative officiating. The athlete was advised of her uniform violation prior to the event and given options to remedy it...IN ORDER TO PREVENT A DQ if she were to run. The fact that officials have not enforced this rule on this athlete before could be because they were afraid of this exact episode..."

We'll close with aallen1, who said, "...If her clothing doesn't give her an advantage and isn't offensive, I don't see the problem..."

All comments on this article are here.

By Doug Feaver  |  January 16, 2008; 9:45 AM ET
Categories:  Metro  
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Posted by: kevin devoto | February 19, 2008 1:31 AM | Report abuse

Craig, you're absolutely right. In 1965, we eliminated quotas biased toward whites and outright bans like the "Chinese Exclusion Act" and are committed by law not to discriminate on the basis of race, religion, sex, nationality, etc. It does appear the Bush Administration wants to implement a de facto ban, because it has broadened the causes for exclusion such that even Iraqi Christians have a hard time getting in.

Posted by: jhbyer | January 18, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

SouthernExposure - "We have both the legal and moral right to do so."

Could you please explain this? I'm no expert on U.S. immigration law, but I didn't realize that you could prevent someone from immigrating into the country based on their religion. Anyone else? Is this correct?

Posted by: Craig | January 17, 2008 12:01 PM | Report abuse

There's been much talk of this nature in Canada as well. Recently a young Muslim girl was prevented from participating in a soccer game in Quebec due to her wardrobe (her headware was deemed dangerous to herself and other players).

Unfortunately, many people have brought up the nonsense of "special treatment" for Muslims in North America. Being allowed to express your religion is NOT special treatment. It's a fundamental right of ALL citizens in your country, regardless of religion. I suppose it's easy to say the rules shouldn't be changed if they were originally written to pander to your own religion.

However, this particular runner broke the rules, clearly (due to the colouring of the garment). Her coach knew she was breaking the rules, the runner knew she was breaking the rules. She was given an opportunity to fix her attire so that she would be able to run. She did not. It was her own fault, and her coaches fault as well. Why don't we just leave it at that?

Posted by: Craig | January 17, 2008 11:57 AM | Report abuse

to southern exposure:

Restrict immigration? The girl's family name is Kelly!!!

Posted by: besensible | January 17, 2008 11:46 AM | Report abuse

The National High School track and field (and cross country) rules are very clear:
Rule 4, Section 3 Article 1-d,
"Any visible garment(s) worn underneath the uniform top or bottom shall be a single, solid color and unadorned..."
The slide show of this runner shows her clearly violating these rules--one sleeve red, one sleeve blue, hood of several colors.
She had been racing with modest garments for several years: did the earlier ones comply?

Posted by: Bruce Colman | January 17, 2008 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I know of a marathoner who was DQd from a high school cross country state final in ohio because her tights were striped, rather than solid-colored. a whole team in virginia was DQd for wearing rubber Lance Armstrong bracelets. Some girls were DQd at the same meet for wearing hair elastics on their wrists (presumably intended to tie hair back up if it fell down during the race). uniform rules are incredibly strict and often appear arbitrary, but the "solid color" rule is pretty hard and fast. I agree, though, that they should have let her race and then just DQd her time afterwards if the sanctioning body agreed the uniform was unacceptable. The shirt they wanted her to wear looked like a cotton waffle-knit thermal, which *would* adversely affect her, since she would then be wearing a substantially heavier (and moisture-retaining) garment than any other racer.

Posted by: Jenna | January 17, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Lawyers have a saying to the effect that bad cases make bad law. That seems to apply here, because the facts themselves remain murky. Right now, it's another "he said, she said" situation. Therefore, it's inappropriate to use this case as an example of the conflict between rules and religious requirements.

But in general, I side firmly with those who are fed up with members of some particular religion--especially Muslims--wanting to be exempted from a rule that applies to everyone else, because it conflicts with their religion. This stands freedom of religion on its head. Advocates of this viewpoint are demanding that the rest of us conform to their religion. If your religion does not allow you to play this sport according to the rules, then find another sport. Being an American does not mean that you can do anything your religion allows. Remember the Mormons and polygamy? What next? Will Muslims demand that every hospital have female doctors in their emergency room 24 hours, since Muslim females cannot be treated by male doctors?

But on the larger issue of how America copes with a growing Muslim population, we Americans are missing the boat. Stated simply, we cannot continue to allow large numbers of Muslims into the country, and then try to regulate every aspect of their behavior that arises because they remain faithful to their religious precepts. Muslims do have as much freedom of religion as Christians or any other religion.

What we need to do is to restrict the number of Muslims who are here. We have both the legal and moral right to do so. The ones who are already here will propagate in large numbers. Let's use our immigration laws to limit the overall number. The European experience has shown the folly of opening the floodgates to Muslims.

Otherwise, we will face increasing acrimony over disputes like this one. Why would we allow this situation to develop, with our eyes wide open?

Posted by: SouthernExposure | January 17, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

They should be allowed to wear whatever they want. If they want to run topless, they have that right too. They should be allowed to build mosques as high as they want. Millions of Iraqis have the right to settle in Houston where they can control the Iraqi oil. Of course, that does not mean that tens of millions of non-Europeans have the right to be in Europe, but that is a different society.

Posted by: Singing Senator | January 17, 2008 7:20 AM | Report abuse

THIS IS NOT TO BE POSTED....but for Mr. Feaver's further consideration: has anyone asked the track & field officials involved in this call? they are under the direction of rules put out, after considerable debate, and revised yearly, by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
the head official for the State of Maryland is Bill Price. His e-address is: drbillprice@yahoo.com

Posted by: Bruce Colman | January 16, 2008 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Please correct if I'm wrong, not being Catholic, but my understanding is a nun's habit serves an opposite purpose. Same as a military uniform, it's not meant to be donned before 'going out". It's made to be removed and hung up in a schoolroom, church, or bedroom closet. Again like a military uniform, when worn outside work, it's not to be disgraced with conduct unbecoming of nun, but worn with "pride" (humility?) as each order has its own unique cap. The point is, a nun could and would be expected to run a marathon dressed down to standard attire. Short hair and no make-up, I believe, are regulations, but again, as in the military, reflect an aesthetic known as "clean cut" or "wholesome" that, if anything, is more revealing. The Muslim "habit", on the other hand allows heavy make-up.

Posted by: jhbyer | January 16, 2008 5:09 PM | Report abuse

Question - what do females in primarily Muslim countries wear when they race?

Posted by: jen | January 16, 2008 5:03 PM | Report abuse

Did we single out Catholic nuns back in the times when they always appeared in public dressed in various styles of habits?

In fact, I've often wondered about the historical connections between the Catholic habit and the various pieces of female clothing that Muslim women wear. There appear to be many similarities.

If we have nothing to fear but fear itself, are our fears beginning to destroy us from within. I'm fearful that they are.

Posted by: David in Dallas | January 16, 2008 1:54 PM | Report abuse

The whole point of women's behavioral codes, in all religions I know of, is to keep them from participating equally in society and to restrict their enjoyment of life. Usually, this stems from a need for men to control and maximize their personal biological reproduction.

Crying woman runs back home and shuts the door. Score another point for obsolete religious dogma.

Posted by: Bob | January 16, 2008 12:17 PM | Report abuse

I agree..."when in Rome"....

Generally, conspicuous displays of religious faith disturb me, but I'm willing to endure my amorphous discomfort for the sake of getting along. Here, there were neutral rules that proscribed certain dress codes, and she had a chance to change.

At least we won't stone her to death or behead her for some minor arbitrary violation as in many Muslim countries. I say, let's leave ALL our bronze-age moral baggage behind in this country, and make her dress the same as everyone else.

Posted by: Alex | January 16, 2008 12:09 PM | Report abuse

I do find it troubling that certain religions are asking for special treatment.It is unreasonable,for example, to expect americans to alter the physical plant of schools so certain woman can play basketball unobserved by men ,etc.
Americans are taught to respect the customs of the country we visit;we also know that we do not request the people of another country to accept us as residents, and once in,ask for that country to change the way it operates to suit our religious predelictions.Please first research the country you want to go to, and if it that society does not fit ones religious practices/mores, do not move there!

Posted by: thopaine | January 16, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

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