Rio 2016: US Muslim fencer 'doesn't feel safe' due to anti-Muslim sentiment in America

The New Jersey-born athlete is the first hijab-wearing Muslim woman to represent the US at the Olympics

Olivia Blair
Friday 05 August 2016 09:45 BST
Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammad (Getty)

An American Muslim fencer, who is the country’s first Olympian to wear a hijab, says she does not feel safe in the US due to the country’s increased anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, 30, is currently in Rio de Janeiro preparing to represent the US in sabre fencing. She is ranked eighth in the world and is gearing up for her first Olympics after missing the 2012 London games because of a hand injury.

While much has been reported of concerns over health and safety in the Brazilian city, Muhammad says she feels unsafe in the US.

“[I feel unsafe] all the time. I had someone follow me home from practice and try to report me to police,” she told the Daily Beast. “And this is right on 28th and 7th in New York City.

“I’m very 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."

Donald Trump suggests mother of fallen Muslim-American soldier 'wasn't allowed' to speak at DNC 2016

The New Jersey-born athlete said the US is at a point where it needs to change its dialogue following incidents like Donald Trump’s recent dig at a Muslim couple who spoke at the Democrat National Conference about their son who died in action fighting for the US.

“I want people to know that as hard as [these incidents] are on me, they don’t come even close to things we’ve seen like the shooting in North Carolina or the rhetoric around the Khan family at the DNC. It’s ridiculous and we as a country have to change and I feel like this is our moment,” she said.

The popular fencer is already garnering attention in the US after teaching the First Lady Michelle Obama how to fence in April. She also appeared on The Ellen Show in March, was chosen as one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people of 2016 and recently met President Obama at the White House.

Muhammad also came second in a vote by US athletes as to who should be the official flag bearer for the US at the games. The swimmer Michael Phelps, who has 22 Olympic medals to his name, pipped Muhammad to the post and will carry the flag during Friday evening’s opening ceremony. Andy Murray has been selected to carry the flag for Team GB.

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