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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book 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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs