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2018 Leffler Lecture: A Conversation with Ibtihaj Muhammad

Please join us on Wednesday, November 7th at 7:30 pm for the Leffler Lecture: A Conversation with Ibtihaj Muhammad

Photograph of Olympic Medalist Ibtihaj MuhammadOlympic medalist fencer, named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People, Ibtihaj Muhammad tells a story of the tremendous obstacles, racism, and pressures she has overcome as the first Muslim American woman to compete in hijab in a sport. Her story is an unforgettable tale of perseverance and faith. Raised in a working-class community in New Jersey with five siblings, Ibtihaj sought out sports as a means to fund college and fencing was one of the only sports in which she could participate without altering the uniform. She was fast, hardworking, and devoted to her faith. Her path to Olympic greatness has been marked with painful moments and near-debilitating obstacles—from the financial hardship her family endured in support of her to the ongoing bigotry she rose above with passion and grace, bigotry which emerged not just from competitors but also from coaches and teammates who continuously told her she'd never get far in the sport, even after she qualified for the Olympics. Ibtihaj Muhammad's life is one of overcoming adversity as a woman competing in a sport known for its lack of diversity and in a country that views her religion with suspicion and harbors a history of oppressing her race. Her inspiring journey from a young outsider to a national hero is a beautiful, uniquely American tale of hard work, determination, and self- reliance.

In addition to athletics, Ibtihaj is also the founder of Louella, an online clothing company that offers affordable fashions for the Mulsim market. In 2017, Mattel created a Barbie in her likeness for the brand's Shero program. She is also the author of Proud: My Fight for an Unlikely American Dream, and is one of the founding members of Athletes for Impact, a non-partisan effort to connect athletes with young people and effect change through their collective voting power.


Ibtihaj and her siblings started online clothing company Louella in 2014 to offer affordable fashions to the Muslim market. 

  • Refinery29 interviews Muhammad about the founding and future of Louella
  • Bustle reviews the clothing line
  • ESPN talks about the influence of fashion and fencing on Ibtihaj's path to the Olympics
  • The Washington Post reports on the growing availability of modest fashion
  • Barney's features a profile of Muhammad as a "Woman of Firsts" 

Olympic Profiles

Ibtihaj Muhammad made history as the first Muslim-American woman to compete in the Olympics while wearing a hijab. Check out some of the profiles below on her path to the Olympic Games: