FENCER / TEAM USA
I remember playing many different sports as a kid — as a Muslim youth — and always looking different from my teammates, and having to change the uniforms to where I was wearing long pants or long sleeves when my teammates were wearing shorts and tank tops.
That feeling of always being different — it was uncomfortable…
When I discovered fencing, I remember putting on my fencing mask, and for the first time, feeling like I was part of the team.
Qualifying for the Olympic team and representing our country in Rio this summer means so much not just for me and my family, but for the Muslim community.
Being Muslim in America right now is not easy. I think it’s especially tough for Muslim women who literally wear religion on our sleeve, in a sense.
At SXSW, I went to check in and the volunteer let me know that he couldn’t take my picture unless I removed my hat — those were his exact words. My initial response was to laugh. But he continued even after I explained my hijab was for religious reasons. I asked to speak to the supervisor and his response was, “Well, you know you’re in Texas.”
Where you live is not an excuse for you to be ignorant, and be culturally insensitive and offend people.
You have to shrug off those moments because they’re commonplace when they really shouldn’t be. I can’t allow them to affect me and hold me back, because they would affect my journey. It’s important for us to discuss American Muslims and how they contribute to our society in a positive way. I choose to see the positive, and I try to lead every day with love.