SXSW apologises to US fencer who was asked to take her hijab off

She has previously expressed fear over Donald Trump's rhetoric aimed at Muslims

Sunday 13 March 2016 09:28
Ibtihaj Muhammad poses for a portrait at the 2016 team photo
Ibtihaj Muhammad poses for a portrait at the 2016 team photo

A South by Southwest film festival volunteer has been sacked and organisers have apologised after an US Olympic fencing star was asked to remove her headscarf in order to obtain a pass.

Registration official Amin Simms said it was "an insensitive request" and against the festival's policy to ask Ibtihaj Muhammad to remove her hijab at the event in Austin, Texas.

Sabre fencer Ms Muhammad, 30, could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ms Simms said festival organisers were embarrassed by the situation and apologised to Ms Muhammad.

The fencer will be competing for the US at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer.

South by Southwest is a major festival of film, interactive media, and music

Only two days before, Ms Muhammad had spoken out against Donald Trump's wil rhetoric about Muslims in the US presidential campaign.

The U.S. presidential hopeful proposed in December to ban Muslims from entering the country following the deadly shootings in San Bernardino, California, by two Muslims who authorities said were radicalized.

"I feel like I owe it to people who look like me to speak out," Muhammad told reporters on Wednesday. "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?"

Muhammad says she has watched the US presidential race with trepidation, worried that "fear-mongering" about Muslims is setting a perilous precedent.

She is frequently confronted by anti-Muslim "trolls" on social media, whose messages she promptly deletes.

But she says she also gets hundreds of messages of support each day, including from young Muslim girls whom she has inspired.

"I'm hoping to change the image that people may have of Muslim women," Muhammad says.


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