The Olympic medal-winning fencer speaks to Al Jazeera on religion, illustration and Islamophobia.
Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made historical past in 2016 by being the primary US-team member to compete within the Olympics sporting a hijab.
It was a yr that noticed rising anti-Muslim sentiment within the nation with then-candidate Donald Trump’s speak of a so-called “Muslim ban”.
In a brand new episode of Generation Sport, Muhammad informed Al Jazeera that this put an uncomfortable highlight on her in comparison with her teammates, as she was requested to weigh in on Trump and his views.
“I positively had apprehension answering these questions”, she mentioned, “however I felt like this was my alternative to dispel a number of stereotypes that individuals have concerning the Muslim neighborhood, about the place we’re from, what we appear like”.
Previous to qualifying for the Rio Olympics, the place she received a bronze medal, Muhammad graduated from Duke College the place she was an lively scholar athlete on the fencing group, and through her time there determined to change from finding out drugs to finding out Worldwide Relations and African American research.
“I really feel like I owed it to the individuals who got here earlier than me to study my very own historical past, the place I’m from, and these stunning moments which have created, not simply me, however the existence of my folks”.
This engagement with African American historical past as a scholar paved the way in which for Muhammad to create her personal path as a Muslim African American feminine athlete and discover her function as an athlete.
“It’s straightforward to get caught up on this hustle and bustle of life the place it may be so self-focused,” she mentioned. “By means of sport and studying concerning the historical past of individuals like Jackie Robinson or Muhammad Ali and Althea Gibson, I had the chance to know that my journey is greater than me and I can truly create significant change with my platform if I select to take action”.
Hear Ibtihaj’s story and reflections on overcoming discrimination.
— Era Change (@AJEGenChange) September 18, 2023
To be able to attain the Olympics within the first place Muhammad needed to break down exterior obstacles that she confronted resulting from race and faith, however she has additionally spoken about having to beat inner struggles with despair and efficiency anxiousness.
Since profitable her medal on the 2016 Olympics she has revealed her autobiography through which she particulars these experiences, in addition to two youngsters’s books and continued along with her modest clothes line, Louella, which caters to Muslim fashion-conscious girls, and she or he continues to make use of her platform to signify hijabi girls.
“Traditionally, the world has been obsessive about the hijab for no matter purpose”, she says. “I feel that it’s rooted in racism. I feel it’s rooted in Islamophobia. It’s probably not concerning the hijab”.
Along with her work and initiatives taking her around the globe, she additionally feels near Muslim communities and their struggles past america. She has much less apprehension now about talking out on points linked to Islamophobia and Muslim communities in different nations.
“As a Muslim, you are feeling clearly very, very connected to what’s taking place in Palestine, what’s taking place in China [with the treatment of Uighur Muslims], or the current police killing that occurred in France, I occurred to be there”.
The killing of 17-year-old Nahel Merzouk by police in Paris on June 27 sparked riots in France this summer and made Muhammad mirror on the problems of police brutality which have led to the #BlackLivesMatter motion within the US too.
“I imagine that if we begin to care extra and attempt to power coverage adjustments, and to carry the police accountable, we received’t have this occur as typically. However we’ve to do one thing to shake the room and wake us up. This isn’t regular”.
Era Sport with Ibtihaj Muhammad, offered by Iman Amrani, was first broadcast on September 17, 2023 on Al Jazeera English.