Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympic fencer who is the first Team USA member to wear a hijab, said she fears for her safety in her own country.
Speaking Thursday in Rio de Janeiro — a city grappling with rising violent crime rates ahead of the Olympic games — Ms. Muhammad said she feels unsafe “all the time” at home in New York City.
“I had someone follow me home from practice, trying to report me to the police. And that was right on 28th and 7th in New York City,” Ms. Muhammad said, Yahoo Sports reported. “I’m very vocal about these things, especially on social media. Because I want people to know that I’m not an anomaly. I’m not special in any way. I’m a woman who wears hijab. These are my experiences.”
The harassment has been hard on her, but her experiences don’t “come even close to things we’ve seen like the shooting in North Carolina or the rhetoric around the Khan family at the DNC. It’s ridiculous and we as a country have to change and I feel like this is our moment,” Ms. Muhammad continued, the Daily Beast reported.
“I’m hoping just my presence on Team USA changes perceptions people have about the Muslim community. A lot of people have misconceptions about who Muslims are and what a Muslim woman even looks like. Who I am challenges and shatters those stereotypes,” she said. “Our conversation about the Muslim community has to change. It’s a slippery slope when you use hateful rhetoric. When you openly use bigoted comments against a group of people, and encourage violence. I hope it changes. I hope it changes fast.”
Asked by the Daily Beast what she thought about Donald Trump’s contribution to Islamic relations in the U.S., she joked: “Who? I’m sorry, what did you say? I don’t know him.”