SXSW Embarrassed By Incident With U.S. Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad — Conference And Festival Apologizes After Muslim Olympian Told To Remove Hijab

Representative for The South by Southwest Conferences and Festivals (SXSW) have said they are embarrassed by an incident involving U.S. fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad. The conference and festival extended an apology out to the Muslim-American who was told to remove her hijab.

The hijab incident actually consisted of two situations pertaining to Ibtihaj Muhammad trying to attain a pass for SXSW. The first incident was her being asked to remove her hijab so her picture could be taken. The second was receiving a badge with the wrong name, in which it was only given to her because it was a “Muslim-sounding name.” Nevertheless, Muhammad took to her official Twitter account expressing her disdain for what she experienced at SXSW.

To be fair, the situation happening to Ibtihaj Muhammad could have been an honest mistake in which the registration booth volunteer working on pictures and event passes was misinformed. Yet, SXSW is known for being an event with a come-one, come-all vibe, one that USA Today says has been tarnished with the situation involving Muhammad. Not only that, but Ibtihaj Muhammad was to speak on a panel called “The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life.” One would think SXSW would be more accommodating towards someone, either they be Muslim or not, who they invited as a media guest.

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As mentioned earlier, SXSW organizers have since apologized to Ibtihaj Muhammad for the incident she suffered, as reported by Raw Story. As for the registration booth volunteer, he or she was dismissed from their duties.

“It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge. 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.”

Ibtihaj Muhammad will be making history in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as the first Olympian to represent the United States while wearing a hijab. Along with her popularity as a professional fencer, she’s been outspoken in politics too, criticizing Donald Trump and his call to ban Muslims from entering the United States in response to the growing violence in Europe often associated to Syrian refugees.

“I feel like I owe it to people who look like me to speak out. When I hear someone say something like, ‘We’re going to send Muslims back to their countries,’ I say, ‘Well, I’m American. Where am I going to go?’”

As for SXSW, the organizers can only hope people will accept their apology they gave to Ibtihaj Muhammad as genuine. Their conferences and festivals, known as a unique convergence of original music, independent films, and emerging technologies, will still be going on for seven more days. Beginning with the interactive and film schedules on March 11, they have yet to start the music schedule on March 15 up to 20. The interactive schedule is set to conclude on March 15, while the film schedule concludes on March 19.

[Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images]