Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first Muslim female to medal for the United States at the Olympic Games, recently revealed that she was held by U.S. customs for two hours without explanation.
Muhammad, a sabre fencer who won bronze in the Team Sabre competition at the 2016 Rio Games, shed light on the incident to website Popsugar (h/t USA Today), though was unable to confirm whether President Trump’s restrictive immigration policy was to blame.
“I don’t know why,” Muhammad stated. “I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.”
Muhammad is most famous as being the first American athlete to compete at the Olympic Games in a hijab, a headscarf worn by some Muslim women. The hijab actually factored into her parents’ decision to place her in a fencing program. Her mother, Denise, was in search of a sport with a uniform that wouldn’t be hindered by a hijab. By the time Muhammad had turned 16, she had switched from épée fencing to sabre fencing. Fourteen years later, she was the first Muslim woman to compete for the U.S. in fencing.
The Olympian has also been vocal about the bigotry she has endured over the years.
“[I feel unsafe] all the time. I had someone follow me home from practice and try to report me to police,” she told reporters ahead of the Games. “And this is right on 28th and 7th in New York City. I’m very vocal about these things because I want people to know I’m not a novelty, I’m not special in any way, I’m a woman who wears hijab and these are my experiences.”
While Trump’s executive order restricting travel to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries was later blocked by a U.S. federal judge, reports continue to emerge of Muslim travelers being hindered.