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AOL Build Speakers Series - Ibtihaj Muhammad

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Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad is set to make history. The 30-year-old will be the first U.S. athlete to compete in the Olympic Games while wearing a hijab.

She recently won a bronze medal during a Olympic qualifier in Athens, Greece that solidified her place on the U.S. Olympics team during this year’s summer games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Ibtihaj has been fencing since she was 13 when her mother discovered a sport that would allow her to be fully covered. The Maple, New Jersey native has since racked up a long list of professional accomplishments. She initially made history as the first African American Muslim woman to compete internationally in fencing.

As a member of the United States national fencing team, Ibtihaj won her first gold medal in 2014 at the World Fencing Championships in Kazan, Russia. She’s gone on to win four more bronze medals. Ibtihaj is also a three-time All-American from Duke University.

Despite the new found fame that has come as a result of her personal accomplishments, Ibtihaj is still acutely aware of the challenges that Muslim women of color face on a daily basis. She was recently invited to The White House where she had the opportunity to speak with President Obama about the state of Islam and Islamophobia.

“It’s a struggle to be a Muslim woman right now. For all Muslims in our country” she said in an interview with CNN.

Ibtihaj is proud to be a role model younger Muslims who’s parents typically relegate their career paths. “In the Muslim community, there is a sense that you are always a doctor or lawyer…Black people didn’t fence, and Muslims didn’t either” she said.

“[The sport hasn’t been] diverse enough. Being an African-American Muslim woman, I can be that change,” she added.

Congrats, Ibtihaj! We’re rooting for you!


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