South by Southwest (a.k.a. SXSW) is in apology mode after an embarrassing incident where fencer Ibtihaj Muhammad was asked to remove her hijab to obtain an ID badge.
Muhammad, who is set to become the first U.S. athlete to wear a hijab at the Olympics, was participating in SXSW’s The New Church: Sport as Currency of American Life panel. The incident occurred before the panel and she addressed the moment of cultural insensitivity at the event. Muhammad noted that the request to remove her hijab wasn’t a one-off in her life.
“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.”
The 30-year-old fencing star also expressed her frustration on social media. In her tweets she revealed that not only was she asked to remove her hijab, but the info on the ID wasn’t even correct.
SXSW has apologized for the incident in a statement that notes the volunteer in question has been “removed” for the duration of the event. A personal apology has also been made.
“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.”
The public at large may be unfamiliar with Ibtihaj Muhammad at the moment, but they’re likely to become far better acquainted with the Garden State talent when she competes at Rio in 2016.