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US Olympian asked to remove hijab at a cultural festival

Ibtihaj-Muhammad

Houston: Amid increasing rhetoric around Muslims in the US, an Olympian was asked to remove her hijab for a photo on her ID badge by the staff at a cultural event in Texas, following which the organisers apologised to her.

Ibtihaj Muhammad, an Olympian fencer, was picking up an identification badge at the interactive Texas festival South by Southwest (SXSW) event on Saturday when a volunteer told her she must take off her hijab before her photograph could be taken.

“Even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he insisted I had to remove my hijab,” she said on Twitter.

Muhammad, 30, the fencing star will become one of the most prominent Muslim athletes in US history wearing a hijab during 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics beginning in August.

“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 apologised to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident,” SXSW organisers said yesterday in a statement.

The 23rd annual 5-day SXSW Interactive Festival began on March 11 in Austin.

The incident comes at a time when the rhetoric around Muslims in the US has grown increasingly toxic.

Muhammad has become an outspoken critic of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, who called for a ban on Muslims from entering the US.

“I feel like I owe it to people who look like me to speak out,” she told reporters.

After the incident was resolved at the event, Muhammad said that she was issued the wrong identification.

“I was given the wrong ID! From now on my name is Tamir & I work for Time Warner Inc” she tweeted.

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