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Was held at US airport without explanation: Hijab-clad American Olympian fencer

world Updated: Feb 09, 2017 19:01 IST
Ibtihaj Muhammad

Ibtihaj Muhammad became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics when she won bronze in team sabre in Rio in 2016.(AFP File )

Fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympics wearing a hijab, has said she was recently detained at US Customs for two hours without explanation.

Ibtihaj said she did not know if she was held as a result of the Trump administration’s travel ban but is sure the move was a result of her ethnicity.

“I don’t know why. I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name. And even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you,” she told the web site Popsugar during a speaking engagement at the MAKERS Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California.

Ibtihaj won bronze in team sabre at the Rio Olympics last year. She became the first female Muslim-American athlete to earn a medal at the Olympics.

“My human response is to cry because I was so sad and upset and disheartened -- and just disappointed,” Ibtihaj said.

“At the same time, I’m one of those people who feels like I have to be strong for those people who may not be able to find that strength. I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard,” she said.

“It was a really hard two hours, but at the same time, I made it home. I try to remember to be positive and to try to leave all these situations, even if they may be very difficult, with love. I think that we will come out on top as women, as people of colour, as Muslims, as transgender people, as people who are part of the disabled community ... I think that we’ll come out on top,” the athlete said.

Ibtihaj’s remarks come amid stark political divide in the country over President Donald Trump’s ban on refugees and visa holders entering the country from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Several hundred people have protested against President Trump’s immigration order.