Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad Says She Was Recently Held Without Explanation By U.S. Customs

“Even though I represent Team U.S.A., and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you.”

February 09, 2017
Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad Says She Was Recently Held Without Explanation By U.S. Customs Jerritt Clark/Getty

Ibtihaj Muhammad, who won a bronze medal for fencing at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has recalled an incident "just a few weeks ago" in which she was held by U.S. customs for two hours. Muhammad, who is a Muslim and the first American athlete to compete in an Olympics wearing a hijab, spoke about her experience after a speaking engagement at the Makers Conference in California on February 7.

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"I don't know why," she told Popsugar explaining that she was unsure if Donald Trump's executive order played a role in what happened. "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 U.S.A. and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn't change how you look and how people perceive you."

"My human response is to cry because I was so sad and upset and disheartened, and just disappointed," she added. "At the same time, I'm one of those people who feels like I have to be strong for those people who may not be able to find that strength. I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard.

"It was a really hard two hours, but at the same time, I made it home. I try to remember to be positive and to try to leave all these situations, even if they may be very difficult, with love. I think that we will come out on top as women, as people of color, as Muslims, as transgender people, as people who are part of the disabled community— I think that we'll come out on top."

President Trump's Muslim ban sparked another weekend of protests last weekend with protests happening in cities across the nation, including Salt Lake City, Washington D.C., and New York.

Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad Says She Was Recently Held Without Explanation By U.S. Customs