Black Muslim Fencer a Standout – UPDATED


The Root has an article about Ibtihaj Muhammad, a young Muslim American woman who has defied stereotypes about Muslims, African Americans and our women. She helped Team USA win a gold medal last month at the Pan American Games. The article points out that she competes in her hijab (a symbol of her religious piety).

“Just like race and gender, religion should not hinder you from achieving your goals,” said Ibtihaj Mohammad.

Thus, we cannot allow the Republican Party presidential candidates and the media to continue to target innocent groups of people based on their religion, place of birth or the actions of criminals. 


We should seek to uplift role models such as Ms. Ibtihaj Muhammad and Tim Tebow. Left-wing commentators, such The Nation's Dave Zirin,  are saying that if Tim Tebow were a devout Muslim, instead of a Christian, the media would not be singing his praises. That may or may not be true. It is incumbent of us to do our part to make sure all Americans are equally aware of and proud of Ms. Muhammad.

You may recall that my wife Kennedy was on Foxnews.com six months ago discussing France's law banning Muslim women from wearing the niqab (face veil) in public. Kennedy argued that wearing the niqab is no different than an observant Jew wearing a yarmulke. We are in this struggle together. We must support the rights of all people to be free from discrimination, to excel in their chosen fields and to express their faith.

Please share this uplifting story with our children, family, friends and neighbors. Read the full article here or below.


Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

African American in Hijab a Fencing Standout

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Ibtihaj Muhammad (left) (Omar Torres/AFP/Getty Images)

After the USA won a gold medal last month [13] in women’s team fencing at the Pan American Games, there was little chance of mistaking which one on the podium was Ibtihaj Muhammad.

She was the one on the left, next to the two blondes.

Muhammad is accustomed to sticking out in a sport that’s dominated largely in the United States by Caucasian athletes. From her brown skin to her traditional Muslim headscarf to her uniform with “Muhammad” across the back, the 25-year-old New Jersey native is impossible to miss.

And if she’s good enough, she’ll be even more noticeable next year in London at the Olympics. The U.S. Olympic Committee doesn’t track athletes according to religion, but fencing officials believe that Muhammad would be the first practicing Muslim woman to represent the U.S. [14]

She didn’t intend to become a pioneer when she took up fencing in high school. But she understands the attention she draws and embraces the message sends.

“I think my motto in this whole experience is that sports is something you can do in hijab, and you shouldn’t let your faith compromise how athletically gifted you become,”

Muhammad said in an entry on the Women’s Media Center [15]. “Just like race or gender, religion should not hinder you from achieving your goals.”

Muhammad, currently ranked 22nd in the world in women’s saber, hopes to join a short list of African-American Olympians who competed in predominantly white sports. But those are usually winter sports.

In 2006 speedskater Shani Davis became the first African American to win an individual gold medal [16] in a Winter Games. In 2002 Vonetta Flowers became the first African American — and first black person, period [17] — to win a gold medal (two-man bobsled). In 1988 Debi Thomas became the only African American to win an Olympic medal in figure skating [18].

Muhammad’s race doesn’t play a role in her performance, but her religion could be a factor if she makes it to London. She fasts during the holy month of Ramadan [19], which coincides with the Olympics next August.

“Ramadan and training is always a difficult act in that you have to really be conscious of your body and what your body is telling you,” she told ESPN. “Fasting is not meant to be easy, but I don’t think my struggle is different from anyone else’s.”

No different from anyone else?

That’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s the right attitude and the proper approach.

Like The Root on Facebook [20]. Follow us on Twitter [21].   

About SquarePegDem

A former state legislator turned NY Post editorial board member, thought-leader, public affairs consultant and commentator, columnist and blogger. Michael has appeared on Al Jazeera America Tonight, NY1/Inside City Hall, FoxNews.com LIVE, YNN/Capital Tonight, The Brian Lehrer Show, The Fred Dicker Show, The Capitol Press Room, and The Daily Show. His op-eds have appeared in the NY Post, City and State, The Legislative Gazette, Bronx Times, The Troy Record, Buffalo News, and the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. To schedule speaking engagements, email MBenjamin9@optimum.net.
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2 Responses to Black Muslim Fencer a Standout – UPDATED

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