Updated: Feb. 13, 2017.
Following the worldwide controversy surrounding the introduction of new travel regulations into the United States, Muslim-American Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad opened up about her recent experience being held by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
When asked if she knew anyone affected by the ban in an interview with POPSUGAR, Muhammad said she herself was stopped for two hours without explanation, which left her “disheartened.” “I can’t tell you why it happened to me, but I know that I’m Muslim. I have an Arabic name,” she said.
In a message on Twitter sent on Feb. 11, four days after the interview, Muhammad said the detention occurred in December — weeks before President Trump’s inauguration and the subsequent executive order.
“Even though I represent Team USA and I have that Olympic hardware, it doesn’t change how you look and how people perceive you,” she said.
While Muhammad was “upset” and “disappointed” by the experience, she decided she wants to focus on staying strong for others. “I feel like I have to speak up for those people whose voices go unheard,” she explained. “I try to remember to be positive and to try to leave all these situations, even if they may be very difficult, with love.”
Muhammad made history during the 2016 Olympics as the first American to compete wearing a hijab. While the court case on the travel ban draws on, Muhammad remains positive: “I think that we will come out on top as women, as people of color, as Muslims, as transgender people, as people who are part of the disabled community — I think that we’ll come out on top.”