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USA Olympic Fencer Ordered to remove Hijab

SXSW apologizes after ordering U.S. Olympic fencer to remove hijab

The disturbing trend of xenophobia in America has fractured the nation and triggered the unlikely rise of a presidential candidate. Facing declining or stagnant wages, bleak prospects and terrorist threats, too many people have looked for scapegoats and found them in foreigners with different beliefs and cultures.

One U.S. Olympic athlete, Ibtihaj Muhammad, recently felt the scorn of being different after she was told to remove her hijab or headscarf, which she wears for religious reasons, for a security photo at the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas. Making matters worse, Muhammad was then given a credential with the wrong name.

Muhammad, a fencer who is ranked No. 7 in the world in saber, took to Twitter to express her frustration over the incident, prompting a conciliatory public statement from SXSW:

It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering can be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge. This was on 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.

Muhammad’s ordeal is uncomfortable to talk about, as evidenced by some of her sponsors objecting to her speaking out. But just because it’s difficult to talk about, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss it. In fact, issues like these end up getting worse when each side is uninformed about the other. The truth is people are scared about what they don’t know and the only way to assuage their fears is by learning about different cultures and people.

The freedom of religion is an essential right shared by all Americans, as is the freedom of speech. In my opinion, we should use the latter to better understand the former.

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