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Ibtihaj Muhammad, Muslim 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Nominee, Says Why She Chose Fencing

Olympic Team Nominee Ibtihaj Muhammad on Why… by uSports

Ibtihaj Muhammad, a saber who will be competing in this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, discussed what led her to get into the sport of fencing at the Team USA 100-Day Countdown celebration in New York’s Times Square.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, 2016 Olympic Team Nominee, Says Why She Chose Fencing

“I started fencing when I was 13 in high school,” Muhammad. told uSports exclusively. “My parents were looking for a sport for me to play where I didn’t have to alternate uniforms as a Muslim youth. We saw that the athletes were fully covered, they wore long jackets and long pants, and it just uniquely fit into my lifestyle as a Muslim youth.”

A native of Maplewood, New Jersey, Muhammad, 30, is the first Muslim woman who wears a hijab— the traditional head veil donned by Muslim women — for the United States Olympic Team.

Muhammad attended Duke University, where she received an academic scholarship. There, she was a three-time All-American and 2005 Junior Olympic Champion. She graduated in 2007 with a double major in International Relations and African Studies.

On March 12, Muhammad was forced to remove her hijab by security at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. Security asked her to remove her headscarf for an ID photo, and even after she explained she wore it for religious reasons, they asked her to take it off. She also said she was then handed an ID badge with an incorrect name: the badge read “Tamir Muhammad” and said she worked for Time Warner Inc. Muhammad took to Twitter that same day to recount all of this.

South by Southwest, which is an annual music, film, and technology festival, later issued a statement to apologize for the incident:

“It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge,” the statement reads. “This was one volunteer who made an insensitive request and that person has been removed for the duration of the event. We are embarrassed by this and have apologized to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident.”

Later on, Muhammad seemed to suggest this wasn’t the first time she had been involved in this type of incident.

“I had a crappy experience checking in,” she said. “Someone asking me to remove my hijab isn’t out of the norm for me… Do I hope it changes soon? Yes, every day.”

According to the Chicago Tribune, Muhammad participated in a panel called “The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life” following the incident.

She is ranked seventh in the world in fencing, and second in the U.S. in saber.

NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 26: Ibtihaj Muhammad attends 2016 Time 100 Gala, Time’s Most Influential People In The World red carpet at Jazz At Lincoln Center at the Times Warner Center on April 26, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Time)

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Written by Pablo Mena