How U.S. Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Is Inspiring the Next Generation of Female Athletes
The fencer, who was the first U.S. Olympian to wear a hijab, is determined to reshape the narrative around what a Muslim woman can do.
Ibtihaj Muhammad isn't one of those athletes who's afraid to use her voice to speak out about important issues. The fencer and observant Muslim first catapulted into the spotlight during the 2016 Olympics when she became the American to rep Team USA while wearing a hijab. Since then, she's been named one of Time's 100 Most Influential People, had a Barbie created in her likeness, and starred in a Nike campaign for their high performance hijab—and she isn't slowing down. Here's how she's using her platform to pave the way for other Muslim women in sports—and how she drowns out the haters.
How She Leads by Example:
"In a way, my life and my journey have always been bigger than fencing. Competing at the Olympics was also about reshaping the narrative around who a Muslim woman is: what she looks like, what she does. I’ve always wanted to transcend the sport in a way that changes people and changes their worldview." (Related: Ibtihaj Muhammad On the Future of Muslim Women In Sports)
Her Advice for Drowning Out the Doubters:
"Don’t let misconceptions define you. Throughout my life in sport, I’ve been told that I don’t belong or that I’m not capable of being successful. But I don’t rely on other people’s acceptance in order to love myself and believe in myself. It’s always been, ‘Oh, I know I’m a badass.’ I felt the need to show that this is possible—not just for me but also to encourage, motivate, inspire, and empower the next group of girls who may be made to feel the same way."
Her "Practice Makes Perfect" Mantra:
"Try not to harp on your mistakes. For athletes, some of them can cost you a match or a medal. But know that you can self-correct. If I have a bad day, I can practice to put myself in a better position in the next competition. There’s always room to grow and become a lot better. And that’s something that I think translates outside sport if we reshape our minds to believe that."
Shape Magazine, September 2019 issue