SXSW Apologizes for Asking Olympic Fencer to Remove Her Hijab

Ibtihaj Muhammad
Muhammad speaks on stage at 'The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life' during the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival. Amy E. Price/Getty Images

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.

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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.

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.

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“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.”

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Ibtihaj Muhammad
Muhammad arrives at the 2016 SXSW Music, Film + Interactive Festival. Amy E. Price/Getty Images

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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