News / USA

American Female Muslim Athlete Inspires Girls in Dakar

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)
Jennifer Lazuta
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.

In fencing, two competitors face off in a highly technical form of swordfight, scoring points each time they touch their opponent with a saber. Muhammad says the sport is a lot like chess - you have to constantly think ahead to outwit your opponent.

Muhammad began fencing in 1999 at the age of 13. She set her sights on the American national team in 2007 when she realized there were no minorities represented.

She says that even though people told her that black Muslim women do not fence, she kept at it. In 2011, Muhammad became the first female Muslim athlete to represent the United States. She is now ranked second in the United States and 10th worldwide.

Eighteen-year-old Amy Gaye Ndeye, a student at the John F. Kennedy all-girls school in Dakar, said Muhammad is an inspiration to all girls who have dreams of becoming an athlete.

"Here, in Senegal, it’s usually only men who play sports. But now, girls are seeing that women can also participate in sports. I and many of my friends look up to athletes like Muhammad because she sets an example for all girls who just want to play the sport they love." said Ndeye.

Muhammad said she hopes that young girls and women around the world will never let other people’s misconceptions about race, gender or religion define who they are or stop them from doing what they want.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Role in Fighting IS Carries Domestic Risks

There are Western concerns Islamic State militants soon may unleash offensive in kingdom that could create upheaval - though nation has solid intel, grip on banking system More

Asian-Americans Enter Public Office in Record Numbers

A steady deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Tapiwa kake from: Harare
February 13, 2014 3:19 PM
I'm so glad that Muslims has place in United States of America society


by: Godwin from: Nigeria
February 08, 2014 6:45 AM
Since not all girls who find themselves in the iron-curtain religion want to play only fencing, how do those who want to play football for example dress in full covering, even covering of the fingers to participate? The 2022 world cup soccer will be hosted by Qatar for instance, and we are told that temperatures there can rise up to 40 to 50 degrees in summer, will someone dressed in full regalia survive it playing the game if Qatar or any other country that poses such high climatic condition were to host female soccer sometime soon? What this article has achieved is to teach those so drastically restricted to try cluster in only those few games - whether they like them or not. Thought somebody was going to raise issues like we have it with gay matters presently, for muslim girls and females to be freed to dress suitably for the games of their choice and not to be restricted because of their religion.


by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
February 08, 2014 5:55 AM
Christianity and Islam equally treat women as second class citizen.
But both religions insincerely claim that they support women's contemporary rights with mountainous conditions. Girls and women will be better off with their true freedom without religion on their shoulders, because both religions are evil institutions.

In Response

by: The Atheist from: London
February 08, 2014 5:57 PM
You call yourself Haji, Muslim Pilgrim, yet insult religion? Who do you want to fool? Atheists? Well, we have no enough money for folks like you who lie and insult their religion so they can win some fame and bread. We are looking for the same ourselves, the economy is down. lol.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid