The Day I Met Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammed signing autographs

The Day I Met Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first Muslim American woman to wear the hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics. Her motivation for joining the United States Olympic team was when she realized that there had never been a Muslim woman to represent Team USA., that motivated me more than anything had in the past, to qualify for the team”.

I remember watching Muhammad at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. I admired her poise and technique in the way in which she wielded the saber, and thought to myself, I want to be like her. It was during the 2012 Olympics that there was a controversy regarding not allowing women to wear the hijab when competing in the judo because of the risk involved. I remember that they resolved the issue in the end but didn’t understand at the time why so much attention was given to an issue which clearly had a simple solution.

Taken during Muhammad’s talk at the Special Olympics IX MENA Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE

Personally, I’d never considered myself an athlete before I joined university. I liked to play sports during school -, I would in fact often borrow a badminton racket or basketball and play with my friends. but apart from being part of my school cross-country team – where we competed against other schools, -I did not have much experience playing competitive sports. It wasn’t until I joined university that I decided to join the women’s basketball team and play competitively.

From 7 am practices twice a week with an additional day of training (conditioning) for intercollegiate athletes, I kept myself busy throughout the school year. In my first year of university, I was one of two students who wore the hijab on the team, but I didn’t let it hinder me. In my second year, there were a few more girls who joined the team who wore the hijab and it was nice to have company. I enjoyed being part of a team, where we respected and looked out for each other.

Through my involvement with the team, I have met several famous US female athletes including Tamika Catchings, Alison Felix (long-distance runner), Michelle Kwan, and Ibtihaj Muhammad – the latter two when they came to Abu Dhabi to speak at the inauguration of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games held in Abu Dhabi, UAE. I remember thinking how down-to-earth all these athletes were despite their achievements and looked up to them for my inspiration.

During her visit the talk, Muhammad spoke about her motivation for choosing fencing; a sport where she could cover with the “modest dress of her faith”. Looking back, I remember how my decisions to do a particular sport had always been accommodating to my desire to wear the hijab, be it archery, horse-riding, climbing, and of course, fencing. 🙂

Written by Siba,

Indian hijabi from the UAE, who’s an avid reader, sports enthusiast, and loves to go on an adventure. She is currently doing her Master’s Human-Computer Interaction Design in Paris, France and believes that change is made by taking the first step.

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  1. Aah I love this so much!! It’s so cool that you have an interest in sports (I only like basketball and badminton but can’t even play those without tumbling every two seconds) and that you met all these inspiring people!!

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