Ibtihaj Muhammad is a world champion sabre fencer and the first Muslim woman to compete for the United States in the sport. But that didn’t mean much to the organizers at SXSW, who Muhammad said asked her to remove her hijab in order to register at the Texas multimedia festival.
I was just asked to remove my hijab at SXSW Registration for my ID badge.. I can't make this stuff up #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
Even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he insisted I had to remove my hijab for the photo to receive my badge #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
Support poured in after Muhammad tweeted about the incident.
Others contended that Muhammad had been treated fairly in the encounter and even sought to malign Muslim countries, despite the fact that Muhammad was born and raised in New Jersey. (Full disclosure: This reporter, in a curious coincidence, attended high school with Muhammad.)
The argument that hijabs and other religious head coverings should be treated like hats or “fashion statements” was an interesting tack, considering Muhammad is also the founder of Louella, an “online clothing store which offers modest fashionable clothing” in line with Muslim tradition. Which is to say that if anyone knows where fashion ends and religious observance begins, it’s probably her.
In the end, it appears Muhammad didn’t have to remove her hijab to get her SXSW badge photo taken, but there was one more embarrassing twist to her tale:
Oh, well. Maybe next year will be better.
Update 2:51pm CT, March 12: A spokeswoman for SXSW reached out to the Daily Dot to relay an apology issued by the festival’s press team:
“It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge. This was one volunteer who made an insensitive request and that person has been removed for the duration of the event. We are embarrassed by this and have apologized to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident.”
Photo via @IbtihajMuhammad/Twitter