Olympic Athlete Ibtihaj Muhammad Latest Victim Of Religious Discrimination

Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the U. S. Olympic fencing team, is the latest victim of religious discrimination in 21st century America. As the Inquisitr reported earlier, Ibtihaj Muhammad, a native-born American citizen, was requested to remove her hijab at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Ms. Muhammed is a Muslim and wears a hijab in public, a scarf that covers her head to protect her modesty.

SXSW is the South by South West Festival, an annual event in Texas. It is a music and film festival. Ibtihaj Muhammed was invited to be a participant, speaking on a panel called “The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life” along with ESPN reporter Rachel Nichols and documentary director Marina Zenovich. The panel was supposed to examine how society uses sports as the lens through which it views life.

“Once notable through politics or church, society now experiences major themes of life and social issues through the lens of sport. The exploration of certain troublesome topics is no longer served in hushed tones in private but represented through words and actions of stars on the field. And more self-evident than ever, conversations surrounding issues like domestic violence, equality and racism illuminate differences in culture and class that force examination, and engage community in ways that serve to connect and divide us in equal parts.”

Ibtihaj Muhammed was invited to discuss and debate what sports means to Americans. Ms. Muhammed is a member of the U.S. Olympic fancing team. Born in Maplewood, New Jersey, she attended Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. A devout Muslim, she dresses modestly; her arms, legs, and head are covered when she goes out in public. Orthodox Jewish women and quiverfull Christian women dress similarly for the same reasons. Muslim women are allowed to wear a hijab in passport and driver’s license photos. However, a volunteer at SXSW required Ms. Muhammed to remove her hijab to have her picture taken for her security badge. What’s good enough for the U. S. government wasn’t good enough for SXSW, at least in the opinion of one volunteer.

The volunteer exceeded his authority. SXSW has apologized to Ms. Muhammed and removed the volunteer from his duties. However, being asked to remove her hijab isn’t anything new for Ibtihaj Muhammed. Like most American Muslims, she’s very familiar with religious discrimination. Ms. Muhammed is best known for three things: being the seventh-best fencer in the world, being a clothing designer of affordable, modest clothing, and speaking up against presidential candidate Donald Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims immigrating to the United States.

NBC News asked legal experts, who said Trump’s plans to ban Muslims from the U. S. were unconstitutional.

The Pew Research Center estimates there are approximately 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. Not all are immigrants. Many, like Olympic athlete Ibtihaj Muhammed, rapper Alia Sharrief, surgeon/TV host Dr. Mehmet Oz, comedian Dave Chapelle, basketball player Shaquille O’Neal, and singer Jermaine Jackson are native born American citizens.

The New York Post reported how Rosa Hamid, a Muslim woman wearing a hijab and a t-shirt that said “I come in peace” was escorted from a Trump rally in South Carolina. Ms. Hamid said she “wanted Trump supporters to meet a Muslim in real life.”

U. S. News and World Report told how Sikhs have been attacked by bullies who mistake them as Muslims: Dr. Prabhjot Singh in New York City’s Central Park, a Sikh gurdwara (temple) defaced with anti-ISIS graffiti in Buena Park, California, an elderly Sikh deliberately hit by a truck in Fresno, California, and far too many more.

Professor Simran Jeet Singh of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, blamed political leaders for casting all Muslims as potential terrorists. Unfortunately, many people mistake Sikhs for Muslims. Not mentioning any names, he said some political candidates were “making it acceptable to discriminate against entire communities based on their religious beliefs.”

“Ignorance and illiteracy are one aspect of the problem. The second aspect to the problem, I think, is the political rhetoric and political landscape that are creating a sense of fear in our communities.”

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

In the 21st century CE, is it “acceptable to discriminate against entire communities based on their religious beliefs”? Is religious discrimination acceptable in a country that was founded on the principles of freedom of religion?

[Photo by Harry How]