Religion shaped Ibtihaj Muhammad’s life
A Book Review
Religion shaped Ibtihaj Muhammad’s life and athletic career in a great way. At first, she had tried several sports, and she was never comfortable participating in them. She tried volleyball, among others, but she felt she stood out among other players. When she realized fencing with the help of her mother, she felt comfortable since no one noticed her color difference or her hijab since the helmet covered it. The gear used in fencing also did not expose her body which is a rule in Muslim adherents. When she felt like quitting fencing, she remembered the Islamic girls that had asked for an autograph from her while going to compete, and it gave her strength and determination to work harder and win. Muhammad was a sportswoman, and sports are related to immoral behaviors. Religion helped her overcome some of the vices, like going to party in college. She joined the Muslim Association rather than hanging out with non-Muslim friends who drank and engaged in worldly pleasures.
Through her religion, she learned to face her fears and even handle different occurrences in her life. Muhammad would have time to pray and reflect on her career life and, in the process, figure out and prioritize what is essential. She developed a work ethic due to her faith that requires one to pray up to five times a day. With all the demands of sports where one is required to spend a considerable amount of time practicing, you can only survive and excel with a high level of work ethic. This did not only help her in her athletic career but also her life. At some point, Muhammad did more than two jobs and still practiced. Lastly, Islam instills discipline in its followers. Ibtihaj Muhammad was a disciplined person in academics, listened to her parents and in athletics. She was never the kind of a person to retort back, even when she was mistreated by teammates and the coach apart from one instance. This made her a different person as an athlete and an individual.
There are several conflicts that existed between Muhammad’s life and her religion. For instance, there are women from her Masjid that claimed she should not be flying all over the world alone. They purported she should be married and settle down with a husband, and even when she flies, she should be accompanied by her siblings or parents. Another conflict was her Muslim faith and color in trying to fit in with other students and people in school and even in sports competitions. She was highly ignored and discriminated against by coaches, teammates, and fellow students. Whenever she would try to express herself and let them know that they were not different, she would be shut out. Muhammad could not secure a job as a paralegal due to her dressing which is major because her religion demanded so. According to Mr. Flinch, she was qualified for the job, but he felt she would not blend in with other workers in the office; thus, she could not be offered a job.
Among all these issues, some were resolved while others could not be resolved. In most of these issues, like those expressed by women in Masjid, her mother helped her ignore them. When the teammates and the coaches were against her, she learned to concentrate on achieving her goals which were to make it to the Olympics. She would also call her sister Faizah and talk to her; she often gave her advice or consoled her. Lastly, when she was denied a job as a paralegal, she went home feeling dejected but later decided to concentrate on fencing for life.
Muhammad, Ibtihaj. Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American dream. Hachette UK, 2018.