Muslim Fencer for U.S. Olympic Team Told to Remove Hijab at SXSW

Muslim Fencer for U.S. Olympic Team Told to Remove Hijab at SXSW (Facebook)

Muslim fencer who will be representing the U.S. in Rio de Janeiro this summer says she was asked to remove her hijab when she arrived to the South by Southwest festival in Austin.

Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad tweeted her outrage Saturday over the incident, which occurred at the festival's registration area.

"I was just asked to remove my hijab at SXSW Registration for my ID badge.. I can't make this stuff up," the 30-year-old New Jersey native wrote.

The worker did not back down even after Muhammad told him it wasn't just a fashion statement.

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"Even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he insisted I had to remove my hijab for the photo to receive my badge," she wrote.

According to federal rules, religious headdress such as hijab may be worn in U.S. passport photos so long as the wearer provides a letter attesting to the garment's religious purpose.

Judging from the photo on her badge, which Muhammad posted a shot of on Twitter, she was able to leave her head scarf on. However, something was still amiss.

"Thennnnn I was given the wrong ID! From now on my name is Tamir & I work for Time Warner Inc," quipped Muhammad. "I can't make this stuff up," 

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Like any strong-minded athlete, Muhammad did not dwell on the incident. Her subsequent tweets deal only with the event, in which she was a speaker on the panel "The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life." 

In a statement, SXSW organizers distanced the festival as a whole from the individual with whom Muhammad interacted.

"It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge," organizers said. "This was one volunteer who made an insensitive request and that person has been removed for the duration of the event. We are embarrassed by this and have apologized to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident.”

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