Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic fencing team, addressed an incident when she was asked to remove her hijab for a credential photo at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas last month.
Muhammad will be the first American to compete in a hijab, a Muslim headcovering. In addition to training for the Olympics, Muhammad, 30, runs a fashion business geared towards Muslim women.
“At South by Southwest, I went to check in and the volunteer let me know that he couldn’t take my picture unless I removed my ‘hat.’ Those were his exact words,” Muhammad says in a video for the Players Tribune. “My initial reaction was to laugh. I thought maybe he was kidding at first, but he continued, even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he kept saying, ‘Well, everyone needs to remove their hat,’ essentially like I wasn’t special.”
She requested to speak with his supervisor before being reminded that she was in Texas.
“And I let him know that’s not an excuse. Where you live is not an excuse to be ignorant and and be culturally insensitive and offend people,” Muhammad says.
“You have to shrug off those moments because they’re commonplace when they really shouldn’t be, but at the same time, I can’t allow them to affect me and hold me back.”
SXSW issued an apology where they called the request “insensitive” and embarrassing.
Watch Muhammad's video below:
The 2016 Olympics are set to begin on Aug. 5 in Rio de Janeiro.
- Chris Chavez