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Faith over Fear – How Olympian Champion Ibtihaj Muhammed Faces Challenges

By Sumaiya Malik

“I know what it looks like to be a woman of color, who is also a minority,” says 2016 Olympic Medal winning sabre fencer, Ibtihaj Muhammed. Ibtihaj was one of the speakers in a talk at the Texas Book Festival.

She was in Austin to talk about Proud, her new book for young readers. Proud is the story of how Ibtihaj rose above it all with grace and compassion.

Her exhilarating emergence from young outsider to national hero and outspoken activist is a timeless, uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and resilience that hasn’t been told. The kids version is called “The Proudest Blue.”

Growing up in Maplewood, New Jersey the only Black, Muslim-American in hijab, in middle school Ibtihaj discovered fencing, a sport traditionally reserved for the wealthy and elite.

Though she would start fencing later than most at 12 years old, she had an undeniable talent-the sort that would soon put her on the international stage representing a country with a history of oppressing her race and disparaging her religion. ( 

Ibtihaj is widely known for being the first Muslim American woman to wear a hijab while competing for the United States in the Olympics.

Talking at “When I was a Kid: Writing Books Inspired by Our Childhoods” with two other writers, Ibtihaj said in a convincing and reassuring voice, “It is our responsibility to leave this world in a better place.

“Sitting under a tent in front of the State Capitol Building with cool breeze coming from three sides, Ibtihaj’s almond shaped eyes and a wide smile captured an audience of all ages.

“You have difficult moments in your life and its what you choose to do with them that counts,” she added.

Ibtihaj has used her platform for a great cause to inspire minorities, majorities, kids, women, fencers, athletes, Olympians, people of color, people of New Jersey, her home state, women who wear hijab and people who aspire something never done before to hold on to their conviction and stand strong.

She wrote the phrase “Faith over Fear,” on the books she signed with her name.

Texas Book Festival is held every year on October at the State Capitol Building where well-known writers are invited to talk about their books and participate in panel discussions and thousands of locals attend for free to listen, get inspired and buy books to get them signed from their favorite authors.

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