Did you grow up like me with most Muslims you saw on TV and in movies being big-nosed bad guys, sporting swords and salty snarls in every scene? Want to hear something cool?
Ibtihaj Muhammad is a sword-wielding Muslim: But she’s a woman, not so angry and fights for our side. To clarify, she was the first American Olympic athlete to compete wearing a hijab. And she got a bronze medal for her fencing efforts in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Ibtihaj was born in 1985 in New Jersey to African American parents who’d converted to Islam. They encouraged their kids to play sports, but Ibtihaj was hampered by the conflict between modest Islamic clothing and most uniforms. One day her mom drove by a local high school and saw fencing. She didn’t know what it was, but appreciated the body-covering uniforms! Ibtihaj starting fencing soon after!
She worked hard and rose up through the fencing ranks, eventually, helping the US team take bronze in Rio before retiring from the sport in 2018.
In addition to mastering her sport, in 2014 she launched a clothing line with her siblings. She’s also become a sports diplomat, had a Barbie modeled on her and published two books, a memoir and a book for kids.
Unless you really hate Stephen Colbert, you’ll love this interview he did with Ibtihaj. At least scroll to the 4.30 mark to see his fencing mask reveal!
What’s all this matter to you and me? Two things: 1. Ibtihaj’s story is a fascinating one that merits celebration. 2. If I’m not careful (Not accusing you of this, just personally confessing.), I’ll regard Muslims from a down-looking position of pity. Yes, we all need Jesus. Yes, as well, there’s a higher love than pity.