Ibtihaj Muhammad

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Ibtihaj Muhammad
Ibtihaj Muhammad 2020.png
Muhammad during an interview in 2020
Personal information
Born (1985-12-04) December 4, 1985 (age 34)
Maplewood, New Jersey, US
ResidenceNew York, New York, US
Height1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)
Weight66 kg (146 lb)
Country United States
ClubPeter Westbrook Foundation
Head coachEd Korfanty
Personal coachAkhi Spencer-El
FIE rankingCurrent ranking

Ibtihaj Muhammad (born December 4, 1985) is an American sabre fencer and member of the United States fencing team. She is known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.[1] In the 2016 Summer Olympics, she earned the bronze medal as part of Team USA in the Team Sabre event, becoming the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.

Early life[edit]

Ibtihaj Muhammad was born and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey, a suburb 25 miles (40 km) from Manhattan, and is of African American descent.[2][3] Her parents were born in the United States, and converted to Islam.[4][5] Her father, Eugene Muhammad, is a retired Newark, New Jersey police officer, and her mother, Denise, was an elementary school special education teacher.[3][6][7][7] She is the third child of five siblings.[8]

In accordance with their Islamic beliefs, Ibtihaj’s parents sought out a sport for her to participate in where she could maintain her hijab.[3]

Ibtihaj attended Columbia High School, a public high school in Maplewood, graduating in 2003.[8][9][10] She attended Duke University and graduated in 2007 with dual bachelor's degrees in international relations and African and African-American studies.[11]

According to The Telegraph, Ibtihaj Muhammad started to wear the hijab at a very young age. When growing up and pursuing a career in fencing, she thought keeping her hijab would inspire women and young girls around the world to break boundaries and pursue your desires even while wearing the hijab.[12]

Fencing career[edit]

At Columbia High School, she joined the school fencing team at age 13.[8][13] Mustilli had her switch weapons, from épée to sabre.[13][14]

In late 2002, Ibtihaj joined the prestigious Peter Westbrook Foundation, a program which utilizes the sport of fencing as a vehicle to develop life skills in young people from underserved communities. She was invited to train under the Westbrook Foundation's Elite Athlete Program in New York City.[15]

Muhammad in 2014

Ibtihaj attended Duke University, where she received an academic scholarship.[16] She was a 3-time All-American and the 2005 Junior Olympic Champion.[17][18] Ibtihaj graduated from Duke University in 2007 with an International Relations and African American Studies double major.[5][19]

Ibtihaj has been a member of the United States National Fencing Team since 2010. She, as of 2017, ranks No. 2 in the United States and No. 7 in the world. She is a 5-time Senior World medalist, including 2014 World Champion in the team event.[20]

2016 Summer Olympics[edit]

Ibtihaj was defeated by Cécilia Berder of France in the second round in the Women’s Individual Sabre in the Rio de Janeiro 2016 Summer Olympics but still left Rio with a bronze medal.[6][21][22] Despite the loss, she attracted significant media attention.[23]

She is best known for being the first woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.[24]

Ibtihaj became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.[citation needed] She earned a bronze medal in the Team Sabre, by defeating Italy 45-30 in the medal match. This came after defeating Poland 45-43, and losing to Russia 42-45.

Muhammad at the Sarah Bonnell School in London, UK

As symbol of America's diversity and tolerance[edit]

The 2016 Summer Olympics occurred during the U.S. Presidential campaign in which questions of Muslim assimilation were being discussed, including with respect to U.S.-born Muslims.[citation needed] Ibtihaj as visibly Muslim (due to her hijab) became "one of the best symbols against intolerance America can ever have", according to The Guardian.[25] However, Ibtihaj drew some criticism during the Olympics by describing the United States as a dangerous place for Muslims, saying that she did "not feel safe" as a Muslim living in America.[26]

Other activities[edit]

As a child, noticed all her dolls looked nothing like her as she started to wear the hijab at a very young age. She was then inspired to cut pieces of cloth and fabrics to make little hijabs and wrap them around her dolls.[27]

In 2014, Ibtihaj and her siblings launched their own clothing company, Louella, which aims to bring modest fashionable clothing to the United States market.[4] She is also a sports ambassador, serving on the U.S. Department of State’s Empowering Women and Girls Through Sport Initiative. She has traveled to various countries to engage in dialogue on the importance of sports and education.[28][29]

In 2017, as part of its International Women's Day campaign, Mattel introduced a line of female role model Barbies, including one in a Hijab; and Barbie's first doll fencer, which is designed after Ibtihaj.[30] [31] Through the creation of a hijabi Barbie, it reinforced her belief that young girls and boys should see themselves through these toys while valuing inclusiveness and diversity.


She has also penned two books about her life growing up in New Jersey and her Olympic experience:[32]

  • Muhammad, Ibtihaj. (2018) Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream.[33] New York: Hachette Books. ISBN 9780316518963
  • Muhammad, Ibtihaj. (2018) (Young Readers Edition) Proud: Living My American Dream.[33] New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316477000
  • Muhammad, Ibtihaj. (2018) The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family.[33] New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 9780316519007

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Storm, Hannah (August 12, 2011). "Muslim fencer has it all covered". ESPN.com. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  2. ^ "U.S. Olympic Athletes Ibtihaj Muhammad". Archived from the original on November 26, 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c "Meet Ibtihaj Muhammad, the history-making Olympian who called out SXSW for telling her to remove her hijab". Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Adams, Jonathan (August 5, 2016). "Ibtihaj Muhammad: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  5. ^ a b Carpenter, Les (March 10, 2016). "Ibtihaj Muhammad: the US fencing star out to challenge intolerance and hate". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Hines, Nico (August 9, 2016). "U.S. Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad's Dad: Women Should Never Argue With Men". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  7. ^ a b "A New Face for Team USA | TIME For Kids". www.timeforkids.com. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Berg, Aimee (June 24, 2011). "Fencer With Headscarf Is a Cut Above the Rest". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  9. ^ Khakpour, Porochista (August 8, 2016). "Rio Olympics: Ibtihaj Muhammad Is America's Olympic Game Changer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  10. ^ "Jocelyn Willoughby and Charlotte O'Leary are 'Essex Award' recipients". May 24, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  11. ^ "Ibtihaj Muhammad". Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  12. ^ France-Presse, Agence (November 13, 2017). "First US hijab-wearing Barbie to honour fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved December 10, 2019.
  13. ^ a b "Carter: Maplewood woman could be first American Muslim to wear hijab while competing at Olympics". October 7, 2011. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  14. ^ "Maplewood Fencing Sisters Among Nation's Elite". September 7, 2009. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  15. ^ "Who is Ibtihaj Muhammad?". Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  16. ^ "A Muslim fencer broke stereotypes, but now she wants Olympic gold". July 29, 2016. Retrieved August 11, 2016.
  17. ^ Ibtihaj Muhammad (December 4, 1985). "Ibtihaj Muhammad Bio - Duke University Blue Devils | Official Athletics Site". GoDuke.com. Retrieved March 10, 2016.
  18. ^ Khakpour, Porochista (August 8, 2016). "Rio Olympics: Ibtihaj Muhammad Is America's Olympic Game Changer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  19. ^ "U.S. Olympic Athletes sabre Ibtihaj Muhammad". Archived from the original on December 30, 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2011.
  20. ^ Hafez, Shamoon (August 8, 2016). "Rio Olympics 2016: Ibtihaj Muhammad on hijab, Donald Trump & Muhammad Ali". BBC Sport. Retrieved August 8, 2016.
  21. ^ Editor, Amber Ferguson Associate Politics Video; Post, The Huffington (August 8, 2016). "Ibtihaj Muhammad Didn't Win A Medal, Still Scored An Olympic Victory". The Huffington Post. Retrieved August 10, 2016.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "The Nike pro hijab goes global". Middle East North Africa Financial Network. December 2, 2017.
  23. ^ "Muhammad out - but media won't let hijab-wearing American go quietly". independent.co.uk. Independent. August 8, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  24. ^ "Muslim fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad has it all covered". December 8, 2011. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  25. ^ Les Carpenter, "Ibtihaj Muhammad stoic in defeat: 'I feel proud to represent Team USA'", The Guardian, 2016-08-08
  26. ^ "Interview with Ibtihaj Muhammad", The Daily Beast, 2016-08-08
  27. ^ Olympic Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad On Her Inspiration For Hijab-Wearing Barbie | Donna Off-Air | TODAY, retrieved December 10, 2019
  28. ^ "E:60 Ibtihaj Muhammad - E:60: Ibtihaj Muhammad's American Olympic dream - ESPN Video". Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  29. ^ "Ibtihaj Muhammad, Olympic trailblazer - ESPN Video". Retrieved August 5, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ "First US hijab-wearing Barbie to honour fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad". Retrieved August 5, 2016.
  31. ^ Gonzales, Erica (March 28, 2018). "Iris Apfel Just Became the Oldest Person to Have a Barbie Made After Her". Harper's BAZAAR. Retrieved March 3, 2020.
  32. ^ Courtney, Sara. "Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad Wrote A Powerful Memoir About Her Experiences As A Black Muslim Olympian". Bustle. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  33. ^ a b c 1985-, Muhammad, Ibtihaj (July 24, 2018). Proud : living my American dream (Young readers ed.). New York. ISBN 9780316477000. OCLC 1039423626.CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]