Hold the press y’all: An American hijab-wearing Muslim woman is going to the Olympics this summer. That’s right, Ibtihaj Muhammad, sabre fencer from New Jersey, just secured enough points to ensure that she will be representing the United States Fencing Team.
This might not seem like a big deal to some — a girl wearing a hijab is going to the Olympics? It’s 2016, hasn’t that happened already? Well, actually, no. Muhammad will be the first U.S. athlete to compete in a hijab and the first Muslim woman to compete for the U.S. in an international sport. At a time where the anti-Muslim sentiment is really high in many parts of the world, including the U.S., this is awesome news.
Muhammad actually started fencing back in high school and picked the sport because of its modest uniform. She’s been competing for years, including a career at Duke University and just recently earning bronze at the Women’s Saber World Cup in Athens, Greece on Saturday, thus securing her spot for the 2016 Rio Olympics. She has a plethora of medals to her name, and attempted to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics but tore a ligament in her hands just months prior.
Besides fencing, Ibitihaj also heads up a modest clothing brand, Louella, so you can say the girl has many, many talents.
I love the fact that young girls have such a great role model in Ibitihaj — showing that religion, race and gender should not get in the way of fulfilling one’s dreams. Girls need women like Ibitihaj. I grew up watching Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play for the NBA, and obsessed over Muhammad Ali’s boxing career. It was and is just so cool that there are Muslim athletes out there that make it, and do so with pride.
We’re cheering for you Ibtihaj, you’re already making us so proud.