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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
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 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 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.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid