Tag Archive for Fencing

American Female Muslim Athlete Inspires Girls in Dakar

From Voice of America

Fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad tells students at the John F. Kennedy all-girls school in Dakar that they can do anything they believe in, Feb. 7, 2014. (Jennifer Lazuta/VOA)

Fencing champion Ibtihaj Muhammad tells students at the John F. Kennedy all-girls school in Dakar that they can do anything they believe in, Feb. 7, 2014. (Jennifer Lazuta/VOA)

by Jennifer Lazuta

DAKAR — Ibtihaj Muhammad was the first-ever female Muslim athlete to compete on behalf of the United States in an international competition. Muhammad spoke to an all-girls school in Dakar Friday about her experiences as a female African-American Muslim fencer.Growing up black and Muslim in the U.S. state of New Jersey, 28-year-old Ibtihaj Muhammad says she loved sports, but often struggled to find her place.

“Growing up, especially at this age, we all want to be liked by our friends; we all want to fit in with our friends. But as a Muslim woman, because I cover, I always had to change the uniform. So if I played tennis, if I played soccer or if I ran track, and my teammates wore shorts or short sleeves, I would always have to wear long sleeves or long pants, and it was hard for me as a kid, because I didn’t feel like I fit in,” said Muhammad.

It was her mom who urged her to try fencing – a sport where competitors must wear full body, head and even hand coverings.

“I find that in sport, once I put my mask on – that’s the beauty, I feel, of my sport – it almost becomes an equal playing field. People look at me as an athlete, and solely as an athlete, as opposed to being a woman or a Muslim or being black. And I love it,” she said.

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