The first Muslim-American woman to win an Olympic medal has powerful words for Trump
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Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad made history last summer, becoming the first Muslim woman to represent the United States in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. With her team, she won a bronze medal at the games and used her platform to advance acceptance of Muslims in America. In a letter she published on Time.com today, she warns that the tolerance and understanding she has been advocating has come under fire from President Donald Trump and his supporters.
The climate of fear and hatred fueled and perpetuated by your campaign is gaining momentum through your actions in office. Since your election, I have been ‘profiled’ at the airport, accused of looking ‘suspicious’ and, on the streets of New York, I have been told to ‘go back to my country.’ This isn’t the America that I know and it isn’t the America that the world looks to for inspiration and leadership.
There are 3 million American Muslims. They teach our children, treat our sick, fight our wars, and despite your attacks, continue to stand proudly on the front lines of keeping all Americans safe. My faith calls on me to help the less fortunate and speak out against injustice. President Trump, look at the math: We do not have a refugee terrorist problem. It simply doesn't exist. But, I do fear a not-so-subtle campaign of terror now being waged on our American ideals of justice and equality.
Muhammad explains to Trump that just because she is Muslim, that doesn’t make her any less American, and that she is in fact an embodiment of American ideals. She was born and raised in Maplewood, New Jersey. Her father is a retired police officer and her mother an elementary school teacher, and from her middle class roots, she has risen to Olympic medalist. “I am the picture of the American ream—a public school kid, with loving parents who told me that with hard work and perseverance, I could be whatever I wanted to be,” she wrote.
But since he Trump was elected, she’s seen tolerance fade. Muhammad says she was recently detained by U.S. Customs for two hours with no explanation. “I can't tell you why it happened to me,” she told Popsugar. “But I know that I'm Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn't change how you look and how people perceive you.”
Yet this will not be a fight she will back down from. Since she stepped onto the national stage with her Olympic performance last year, she knows it’s important to be a visible symbol and inspiration for female Muslim athletes, as she told Rolling Stone, “It's always difficult when you don't see someone excelling in something that you may have dreams or aspirations to participate in or excel at. It's hard to see yourself in that space.”