Ibtihaj Muhammad, the Muslim fencer who has taken center stage during the Rio Olympics for being the first woman to wear a hijab while competing for the U.S., recently sounded off on some of the Islamophobia that exists in her home country.
While speaking to media outlets about her experiences in the U.S., she said that she felt unsafe “all the time.”
“I had someone follow me home from practice and try to report me to police,” she explained. “And this is right on 28th and 7th in New York City.
Ibtihaj Muhammad said she wanted to use her newfound celebrity to be “vocal about these things because I want people to know I’m not a novelty.”
“I’m not special in any way, I’m a woman who wears hijab and these are my experiences.”
Such a timely and unique experience struck a chord with media outlets, most of whom praised her for taking a stand against the growing tide of fear and hatred for Islam within the U.S.
— ESSENCE (@Essence) August 16, 2016
However, not every media source picked up the cause. In fact, conservative websites like the Daily Wire and the Blaze (from pundits Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck, respectively) have condemned the comments.
And on a recent episode of Beck’s podcast, the conservative host welcomed on a Muslim author who had some tough things to say for Ibtihaj Muhammad.
Zuhdi Jasser, founder of the Muslim Liberty Project, said that at his institute, “we teach our youth… they are Americans who happen to be Muslims; not Muslims who demand to be American… a very different concept.”
“Unfortunately, here is a woman [Ibtihaj Muhammad], who is clearly at the top of her sport and rather than be just like every other Muslim American — there are Muslims in pro basketball and hockey and many other sports that people say, ‘Oh I didn’t know they were Muslim’ — no, because she wears the hijab, she ended up getting all this notoriety to the point that TIME Magazine was writing editorials that said, ‘No, not the most decorated medalist in American history, Michael Phelps, should be waving the flag; no, it should be her,’ which I find almost insulting.”
Jasser called the media reaction toward Ibtihaj Muhammad an affirmative action program for Muslims and urged the press and many on the left to “stop the bigotry of low expectations.”
He also criticized her for talking with foreign media about how she didn’t feel safe on the streets of New York instead of going after countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, and Egypt where there are “billions of people who live under oppression.”
“No,” Jasser fumed, “she complains about the freest country on earth that gave her a platform to meet with the President, Michelle Obama, Ellen DeGeneres, and all these others. That’s the country that she says she’s afraid to be in, which is, I find, a legacy that is going to destroy our community.”
Jasser’s voice is a unique one among Muslims in that it aligns much more closely to the right side of the political aisle than the left.
Even moderate Muslims — like the Gold Star Family Khans who spoke at the Democratic National Convention — tend to align with the Democratic platform.
But if you follow Jasser’s work and read his latest book, The Battle for the Soul of Islam, you will get a sense of a Muslim who feels the religion needs to go through a restoration and start living within societal rules instead of trying to overtake it.
Whether you believe that’s what Islam does, that’s what Jasser believes and what he’s hoping to change.
Trump might be wise consulting with M. Zuhdi Jasser, M.D, US Navy doc. Syrian, Muslim & experienced in Islam issues. pic.twitter.com/6IwhxZLKQ0
— Blanche V. Mercaldi (@tammytabby) July 2, 2016
But with that said, do you think he was out of line going after Ibtihaj Muhammad for her “unsafe” comments that she directed at the U.S.? Sound off in the comments section.