53°
UMass Boston's independent, student-run newspaper

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

2-26-24 PDF
February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

First Muslim Female to Compete in U.S. Fencing in Olympics

When+Ibtihaj+Muhammad+goes+to+the+Olympics+this+summer%2C+she+will+be+the+first-ever+female+competitor+from+the+United+States+to+wear+a+hijab.

When Ibtihaj Muhammad goes to the Olympics this summer, she will be the first-ever female competitor from the United States to wear a hijab.

As winter is slowly coming to an end, the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro is right around the corner. Over the next few months, athletes will continue to painstakingly compete for the opportunity to qualify for the high profile event.
Fortunately, for Ibtihaj Muhammad, she has already reached the incredible feat of qualifying for the Olympics. But Muhammad isn’t just any Olympic competitor. In fact, Muhammad is going down in history as the first United States Olympic female athlete to ever compete in a hijab. For those who don’t know, a hijab is known as the headscarf worn by some Muslim women. Considering some of the anti-Muslim prejudice that has been circulating the U.S. since the War on Terror, Muhammad’s place on the U.S. Olympic team is a small step towards breaking the misnomers and preconceptions that have plagued an entire culture within the United States.
Even President Obama was quick to congratulate Muhammad in her incredible accomplishment. During a speech at a mosque for the Islamic Society of Baltimore, Obama spoke highly of Muhammad and other great Muslim athletes.
“One of the Americans waving the red, white, and blue will be a fencing champion wearing her hijab in the next Olympics. She is here today. Stand up. Come on. I told her to bring home the gold — not to put any pressure on you,” said the President. “They are the sports heroes that we cheer for like Muhammad Ali and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon.”
Obama furthered his support by commenting on the role Muslim people play in the United States today. He credited them as doctors, engineers, teachers, and scientists, even pointing out some of the most talented Muslim athletes that hold a place in the history of American sports.
Muhammad, a Duke University alumni, competed in a World Cup event in late January in order to secure her place on the fencing team. The Olympic fencer was ecstatic in becoming an inspirational figure within both the U.S. and the global arena.
“When most people picture an Olympic fencer, they probably do not imagine a person like me. Fortunately, I am not most people,” said Muhammad. “I have always believed that with hard work, dedication, and perseverance, I could one day walk with my U.S. teammates into Olympic history.”
Congratulations to Muhammad. She truly has broken through the stereotypical image of an elite female athlete in America. Muhammad’s bravery has made her into a progressive figure on the frontier for Muslim female athletes. Muhammad’s road to becoming an Olympian helped pave the way for athletic women of all backgrounds.  
“As a Muslim female, the sport was uniquely accommodating. My religion requires that my body be fully covered and fencing did just that,” Muhammad said. “After I graduated from college, I saw there was a lack of minorities in the sport. I recognized that I had a skill set, so I started to pursue fencing full-time. I felt that it was something the squad needed. There were barriers that needed to be broken in women’s saber.”