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Olympian Dalilah Muhammad Wants to Challenge Stereotypes About Muslim Women

Twenty six year old New York native Dalilah Muhammad made headlines this summer at the 2016 Rio Olympics when she won a gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles. She was the first American woman to bring home the gold in the category. The track-and-field athlete was also one of fourteen Muslim women who won medals at the games.

Although the Olympics ended less than two months ago, Muhammad’s schedule is still chock-full of events. While completing their Victory Tour in September, Muhammad and her fellow medalists visited schools in New York City as part of a campaign called RunJumpThrow, USA Track & Field’s program designed to encourage kids to participate more in physical activity.

In an interview with Teen Vogue magazine, Muhammad said of the program:  “RunJumpThrow is just…getting kids out, exercising, and getting them [moving]. It’s definitely fun for us athletes to give back a little bit.”

In the same interview, Muhammad was asked what winning a gold medal meant to her as a Muslim woman, and how her Islamic faith plays into being an Olympic champion. Muhammad responded by saying that her gold medal is a symbol of determination and excellence, a quality which she believes all Muslims should strive for. The athlete said that she exercises the same resolve in her day-to-day life, and that she hopes to see much more progress for Muslim women in sports.

“In my faith it’s most important to have a conscious awareness of God and that can be done with or without a hijab,” Muhammad said. “It’s my personal choice to go uncovered.” Muhammad also said that she hopes to break the stereotype of what a Muslim woman looks like. tweet

While Muhammad has received recognition for her outstanding achievement at the games, not much attention was given to her Muslim faith. Unlike some of her fellow Muslim Olympians, Muhammad does not wear hijab and is therefore not immediately recognized as a Muslim woman. On the other hand, fencing Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad was given a lot of media attention for being the first Muslim-American to compete in a hijab. Teen Vogue asked Dalilah to give her thoughts on this.

It’s important to remember that not all Muslim women choose to wear hijab, and that this personal choice does not take away from their faith and the practice of it. tweet

“In my faith it’s most important to have a conscious awareness of God and that can be done with or without a hijab,” Muhammad said. “It’s my personal choice to go uncovered.” Muhammad also said that she hopes to break the stereotype of what a Muslim woman looks like.

It’s important to remember that not all Muslim women choose to wear hijab, and that this personal choice does not take away from their faith and the practice of it. Both Dalilah and Ibtihaj are extraordinary Olympic athletes, neither of which is more Muslim than the other. Dalilah’s choice to go uncovered does not take away from her identity as a proud Muslimah, and her efforts to change the image that people immediately see in their minds when they think of a Muslim woman are admirable.

Currently, Dalilah is enjoying a six-week break in NYC, but she will soon return to her regular training schedule in November. Until then, she plans to spend the short break with her family and friends, as she only gets to go home once a year. There’s no word yet if the 26-year-old runner will be competing in Tokyo in the 2020 Olympics, though we certainly hope she will be!

 

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