Posted on June 30, 2011

Muslim Weightlifter Fights to Compete, Hijabi-Style

Kari Huus, MSNBC, June 27, 2011

She can “deadlift” 240 pounds, and “snatch” more than 100. But, as Kulsoom Abdullah recently learned, she can do neither in a national competition unless she agrees to bare her arms and legs.

That is a non-starter for Abdullah, a 35-year-old Muslim-American who says that such exposure would violate her deeply held religious beliefs. But rather than giving up on her dreams of competitive weightlifting, she’s pressing for a change in the sport’s international rules.

Abdullah may be the only woman in the world who lifts in sanctioned competitions while wearing a hijab–the traditional Muslim dress that covers the head, arms and legs. But her dilemma is one that is cropping up in many organized sports in which Muslim women are seeking to compete, sometimes for the first time.


Abdullah’s wardrobe hasn’t slowed her down. While she was in graduate school at Georgia Tech, getting a PhD in computer networking, she reached the black belt level in taekwondo, the Korean martial art. She started lifting weights about four years ago as part of her overall training regimen. It turned into a passion.


International rules

At present, the rules require arms and legs to be bare so judges can see when elbows and knees are “locked” to determine if a lift is successful. Most competitors wear a form-fitting body suit with short sleeves and short pants called a singlet.

Abdullah argues that there are clothing alternatives–close-fitting sports gear with long sleeves and leggings–that could meet the requirements for modesty and fairness.

But when she sought to compete in the 2011 US National Weightlifting Tournament scheduled for July in Council Bluffs, Iowa, using a modified uniform, USA Weightlifting, the sport’s national governing body, slammed her to the mat.


So Abdullah is taking her case to the IWF. She has created a 43-page presentation detailing clothing options that she says would meet her Muslim modesty requirements, allow competition officials to make clear calls and avoid concerns that she was obtaining any competitive advantage.

With the help of a lawyer, Muslim activists and the US Olympic Committee, her case is on the agenda of the IWF for consideration during its annual meeting in Penang, Malaysia, that began on Sunday. A decision could be announced within days.


The invention of the “burqini”–a swimsuit with full-length sleeves and leggings–has allowed women to observe modesty and work as lifeguards, and may pave the way for Muslim women to compete in Olympic swimming.

Still, Muslim dress continues to be an issue, as occurred recently when the Iranian women’s soccer team was barred from World Cup competition over uniforms designed to meet modesty requirements. Officials of the International Federation of Association Football, FIFA, said the head coverings posed a risk of strangulation.

21 responses to “Muslim Weightlifter Fights to Compete, Hijabi-Style”

  1. Nicholai Hel says:

    If ‘she’ is allowed to compete with all of that gear on how will the I.O.C. know whether or not it’s a real lady under there?

  2. Sonya says:

    If she really wears a hijab she could wear tight fitting spandex leggings and arm coverings, so it shouldn’t be a problem for the judges as spandex is pretty close to bare skin when it comes to muscle, movement, and position.

    A hijab is not bulky, just an above the knee loose raincoat type garment along with a headscarf.

  3. Anonymous says:

    “She can “deadlift” 240 pounds, and “snatch” more than 100.”

    That’s supposed to be something great?

    Myself, and many men I know, can do either one with ONE HAND.

    She might as well stay dressed and forget about it.

  4. SKIP says:

    Sonya said “A hijab is not bulky”

    This is true BUT more than 60 pounds of explosives along with another 30+ pounds of bolts, nuts, rocks and glass can be concealed under the Abaya..I KNOW this for a fact. Play by the rules or don’t play. NOW! I’m also gonna say this “woman” is a black American convert since only black American converts do this kind of grand standing. In true islam and sharia, she would have been beaten near to death for this, blacks are only adopting the parts of islam that let them SUE people!

  5. anonymous says:

    Death by a thousand cuts? What increment is next? How about a little “My way or the highway?”

  6. Anonymous says:

    Its funny how Islam purports to be so modest about sexuality. In reality it is a degenerate culture in which child brides, homosexuality and paedophilia is widespread, even normanl. The “prophet” himself married a six year old girl when he was 54.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I don’t really understand this article being here. She’s fighting the committee through the proper channels. Additionally her proposal (a full body suit) is fair. Let’s not pretend women’s weightlifting is some sacred American tradition. If this woman were a real Muslim though she would abandon her hobbies and marry some guy 20 years older than her and spit out half a dozen kids (not to mention endure some battering.)

    And I don’t think there are too many AmRen readers who can dead lift 240lbs or even snatch 100lbs with one hand.

  8. patthemick says:

    I don’t really have a problem with this. It seems she could wear the leotard style muslim swimmers wear and I could easily judge the lockout.

  9. patthemick says:

    Oh and one last thought. I wouldn’t mind seeing white girls with a bit more modesty too.

  10. Tricia from Ohio says:

    Having thought about training for women’s Figure, it is NECESSARY for the skimpy outfits to judge musculature, not just how much you lift or how you do it. They cannot judge musculature in spandex. Women are also judged on make-up and hair. The point of Women’s Bodybuilding is perfection of the female form, NOT amassing muscles to look like a man.

    though some in there obviously take steroids, you’ll notice the ones who don’t are extremely feminine, and MUSCLED.

  11. Anonymous says:

    A study in cultures. This Muslim wants the rules to change for her. Meanwhile sumo wrestling is kept out of the olympics – not due to Olympic bias but due to Japanese pride. The USA calls it soccer while all the world calls it football. Is there another former British colony besides the USA that doesn’t play cricket? Much of the sporting world is fine with separate but equal. But the culture of perpetual offense, Islam, needs us to ‘respect’ it. Submit, one might say.

  12. Jack D.R. says:

    “Abdullah may be the only woman in the world who lifts in sanctioned competitions while wearing a hijab—the traditional Muslim dress that covers the head, arms and legs. But her dilemma is one that is cropping up in many organized sports in which Muslim women are seeking to compete, sometimes for the first time.” Let there be some give and take in the situation. Now, Abs (a little play on words) should be willing to give, a little, if she expects the IWF to also give, a little, in making this tragic dilemma and sad set of circumstances work. Solution: let Abs cover her head, arms and legs, but the rest of her body must be totally exposed. Look, a person cannot have his or her cake and eat it too, or as Abs may prefer, one cannot have her drawers and eat them too.

    “With the help of a lawyer”…where would she be without her legal mouthpiece? What a heartbreaking and heartrending state of affairs this is. Abs, all we are asking is to give peace a chance.

  13. White Devil says:

    She can “deadlift” 240 pounds, and “snatch” more than 100…a 35-year-old Muslim…Georgia Tech…PhD in computer networking…black belt level in taekwondo…

    This sounds like a hoax to me. How many arab women GET educations, let alone PhDs in STEM fields? And a weight lifter? Now a great one, but still. She’s (if this is a ‘she’) a candidate for honor killing if I ever saw one

    On the other hand, she might be tougher than all of her male relatives put together… if she’s real.

  14. convairXF92 says:

    Tricia #10: you’re confusing weightlifting (competitive sport) with bodybuilding (competitive sport). Ms. Abdullah does the former; you’re describing the latter. Both involve building one’s muscles by lifting weights *as part of training*, but the end goals are different. Ms. Abdullah is graded on how many kilograms she can lift via specified arm and body motions; the shape of her physique doesn’t enter into the grade.

  15. Nick says:

    Weightlifing now.

    Fully clothed Islamic swimmers are next.

  16. MuayTyson says:

    I’m a level one coach for USA Weightlifting. Weightlifting is two lifts Snatch and Clean and Jerk like you see in the Olympics. This is not bodybuilding.

    There are a lot of problems with her request. First there are performance type clothes that are designed to enable people to lift more weight.Think of the outfits worn that make the swimmers faster. She would have to be checked thoroughly before each contest slowing the contest down and effecting the other lifters.

    Secondly there is an issue of visibility. If she were called for not completely locking out she and her coach could appeal. Again this is a pain although the judges usually win in these cases it is more trouble than it is worth.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Note to #3: With minimal weight training most men can deadlift 240 lbs., or snatch 100 lbs.

    Also, feminist agitation imposed the trivial sport of female weightlifting on the AAU.

    This is another example of unhyphenated Americans being forced to conform to the standards of hyphenated Americans. Nothing new here, folks! Typical American Behavior.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Those of you who see no problem should read about the Holy Land Foundation trial papers found in the muslim brotherhood house in the early 90’s. There was a step-by-step plan for taking over America. They are about halfway through.

    Steps included: setting up “civil rights” groups for muslims, getting them into government, the media, and schools; getting other churches to see them as just another religion; calling people racists or bigots when they point out muslim violence, pushing LAWSUITS, along with changing American customs and laws by pushing muslim habits and laws into their place, as well as making muslims “obvious” in society, so they are seen everywhere with their special food and laws (that go against American culture and laws) as “ordinary” and “normal.” Oh — and letting muslims pray in schools.

    Any of these seem familiar to you now, 20 years later?

    Don’t mean to be lengthy, but this is cultural and legal jihad. This is not just one person being quirky.

  19. Crystal says:

    The Iranian women’s soccer team was disqualified from the Women’s world cup soccer tournament because they wanted to play soccer in hijabs.

  20. SKIP says:

    It is clear to me (in my 8th year in the Muslim wars) that most of you do not see the real threat here which is submission to Islam. This cannot stand. Make any concession or accommodation to Islam and it is all over, see DEADtroit for confirmation of this.

  21. Anonymous says:

    What do we do when the first person drowns because the Muslim lifeguard’s water logged hijab made her too slow to save them?