Sabre Fencer, Entrepreneur, Author and Activist
Although Ibtihaj Muhammad is best known for being the first Muslim American to compete in a hijab and win during the 2016 Olympics, she cannot be defined by just one title. The New Jersey native is an author, activist, and fashion designer. She gave the Baccalaureate address at Stanford University’s graduation this year. She taught First Lady Michelle Obama how to fence in a one-on-one lesson. Muhammad credits programs like the Peter Westbrook Foundation, a New York City fencing club that recruits athletes from underserved communities, for providing her with access to train in a sport that is not typically accessible to public school students or inner city residents.
Muhammad has been candid about her discontent with the Trump administration’s policies. In an op-ed she penned for CNN, she wrote: “I love my country, but I don’t recognize it today. Not in the Supreme Court ruling upholding the travel ban. Not in a Supreme Court nominee potentially engineered to undo reproductive choice, access to health care and the Russia investigation. Not in the family separation and detention policy. Not in our move to initiate trade wars and rally against breastfeeding and the World Health Organization. Not in the abandonment of allies and basic decency in how we treat other humans.”
The world is certainly taking notice of Muhammad’s advocacy and sportsmanship. In 2017, Mattel released its first hijab-wearing Barbie in honor of Muhammad. That same year, she became the face of Nike’s first ever campaign announcing made-for-athletes hijabs. She was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people. She is the author of a memoir, “Proud” which details how she rose above the tension she faced growing up as the only Black, Muslim American in her neighborhood and in the Olympics, as well as a children’s book The Proudest Blue, an illustrated tale of two sisters wearing hijabs on the first day of school that addresses bullying and garnering pride. As if Muhammad did not already have an incredible number of accomplishments, she also delved into the fashion world with Louella by Ibitihaj, a clothing line that “endeavors to deliver a fresh, vibrant, and affordable take on modest fashion in the women’s apparel market.”
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