South by Southwest officials have apologized to Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad after she was asked to remove her hijab as she registered at the festival in Austin, Texas, on Saturday, March 12.
Muhammad, 30, who is expected to be the first Team USA athlete to wear a hijab while competing at the Olympics, tweeted about the incident on Saturday afternoon. She also revealed that her name had been misprinted on her badge.
I was just asked to remove my hijab at SXSW Registration for my ID badge.. I can't make this stuff up #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
Even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he insisted I had to remove my hijab for the photo to receive my badge #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
SXSW organizers took notice of her tweets, which were retweeted thousands of times within a few hours. In a statement to the media that day, officials apologized for the request and said they'd removed the person who was responsible.
"It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge," the statement read. "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."
According to the Chicago Tribune, the No. 7 world-ranked fencer, who hails from Maplewood, New Jersey, was at SXSW to speak on a panel called "The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life." During the panel, she reportedly spoke about her "crappy" check-in experience.
"Someone asking me to remove my hijab isn't out of the norm for me," she said, per the Tribune. "Do I hope it changes soon? Yes, every day."
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