About an American Olympian Wearing a Hihjab


Ibtihaj Muhammad has chosen to wear an hijab while participating for the US Olympic Fencing Team in Rio. 

“A lot of people don’t believe that Muslim women have voices or that we participate in sport,” Muhammad said Monday, moments after she was eliminated from the sabre competition in the Round of 16. “And it’s not just to challenge misconceptions outside the Muslim community but within the Muslim community.  I want to break cultural norms.”

Wearing a Muslim scarf during an Olympic event is perfectly allowable. But what does it say about the American constitutional ideal of equal protections and rights under the law?

A hijab or 'Muslim Scarf' is used to refer to the seclusion of women from men in the public sphere, or it may embody a metaphysical dimension – Al-hijab refers to "the veil which separates man or the world from God"

But in America, our Constitution forbids that separation of women from men and guarantees the equal protection-- and treatment-- of women under the law, while at the same time guaranteeing freedom of religion for Muslims.

While this athlete may wear and participate as an Olympic athlete display a symbol of gender oppression since it is guaranteed under our laws, that symbol should not be heralded or made note of.

More importantly, it draws attention to an incontrovertible fact-- that the extreme form of the Muslim religion which demands its wearing is in direct conflict with our most fundamental of laws, and the basis of our Republic-- equal protection under the law.

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