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A world-class fencer who is set to become the first U.S. Olympian to compete in a hijab, said she was forced to remove her headscarf by security at the South by Southwest on Saturday, and was then given an ID badge with the wrong name.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, a member of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Fencing team, tweeted that security personnel at the festival in Austin, Texas insisted she remove her headscarf for an ID photo, even after she explained that she wears it for religious reasons.
Muhammad, 30, said that the credentials she was eventually given had the wrong name printed on it, “Tamir” instead of Ibtihaj.
South by Southwest, the annual music, film and technology festival that prides itself as being on the vanguard of cultural awareness and progress, issued a statement apologizing for the incident.
"It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge. 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."
After the incident, Muhammad participated in a panel called "The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life," the Chicago Tribune reported.
"I had a crappy experience checking in," she said. "Someone asking me to remove my hijab isn't out of the norm for me. ... Do I hope it changes soon? Yes, every day."
Muhammad, a New Jersey native, began fencing at 13, and went on to compete for Duke University. She is currently ranked seventh in the world, and second in the U.S. in saber.
Muhammad’s frustration at the SXSW event occurs against the background of the xenophobic and racist tones of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The Republican frontrunner has called for barring Muslims from entering the U.S., and the creation of a national registry of all Muslims.