American flag waving in blue skyWritten by Don Byrd

This morning, Ibtihaj Muhammad, competed in the 2016 Rio Olympics in fencing. She wore her hijab because she is Muslim. She wore the stars and stripes because she is American.

Her inspiring story and insight were reported in today’s Washington Post:

“I’m hopeful that, in my efforts to represent our country well as an athlete — that they change the rhetoric around how people think and perceive the Muslim community,” she told CNN.

“I am excited to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions people have about Muslim women,” she told the BBC. “I want to show people that we can not only be on any Olympic team, but on the U.S. Olympic team which is the strongest of the world’s teams.”

She also had a pointed response to recent calls by presidential candidates to restrict Muslim immigration to the U.S.

“This is my home; this is who I am,” she said. “My family has always been here. We’re American by birth. It’s a part of who I am. This is all that I know. So when I hear someone say something like, ‘We’re going to send Muslims back to their country,’ it’s like, ‘Where am I going to go? I’m an American.’ ”

Ibtihaj has made a decision to use her position as an Olympian to address issues of stereotype and division. Her voice and her participation should be an inspiration to all Americans, and a reminder of our national commitment to diversity, pluralism, and religious liberty for all. USA!