Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad says representing the U.S. during the Trump presidency was an opportunity to ‘be unapologetic’ about who she is.
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Ibtihaj Muhammad: ‘I qualified for the U.S. Olympic team at the height of the presidential election where there was a lot of divisive rhetoric specifically around the Muslim community.’
Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad says competing during the Olympics couldn’t have come at a better time for her
‘It’s important to me to represent my country at the highest level of sport and be unapologetic about who I am. As A woman who is very clearly Muslim, I’ve been fortunate to bring home a medal for our country. I feel as though my qualifying for the team could not have come at a better time because it flips that narrative on its head that Muslims are all of these things that are super dark that closely aligned to terrorism or oppression or even being something outside of native to the United States. Those are all things that I’m not.’
Ibtihaj became the first woman to wear a hijab while representing the United States at Rio in 2016. She is the first woman Muslim American athlete to win a bronze medal at the Games.
‘I have not changed any part of myself. And I want to show one, the Muslim community that you don’t have to change. You don’t have to feel pressure to change parts of yourself to be more palatable to bigotry, racism, discrimination, xenophobia.’
Ibtihaj is from Maplewood, New Jersey where she grew up as a multi-sport athlete.
‘I remember being young and not seeing myself represented and when I watched sports on television and being really hard pressed to find athletes who looked like me. And now, I feel like my life has kind of come full circle. I’ve been you know in the trenches and worked for this moment as an athlete and it’s not for me but I feel like it was for my younger self to be that source of inspiration for young kids who are athletes of color are you know may or may not wear hijab who may be from Jersey or it may just be a kid with a dream.’
Ibtihaj wrote about her journey in her book ‘Proud.’
‘I am a testimony to hard work and looking you know fear and obstacles in the face and just try to power through and kind of break through those barriers. For those who question someone like me and my belonging, who more American than a girl from Jersey with a dream of competing for the United States at the Olympic Games.’
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