South by Southwest festival (SXSW) was forced to apologise on 13 March after it was revealed that American Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad was asked to remove her hijab for a security photo a day before. To make matters worse, Muhammad was then given a credential with an incorrect name.
The US Olympic team fencer, who wears the headscarf for religious purposes, tweeted about the incident before appearing on a panel called "The New Church: Sports as Currency of American Life." According to Chicago Tribune, she told the audience, "I had a crappy experience checking in. Someone asking me to remove my hijab isn't out of the norm for me. ... Do I hope it changes soon? Yes, every day."
Muhammad's tweets reveal that after being asked to remove her hijab, she was given the wrong credential pass. "Thennnnn I was given the wrong ID! From now on my name is Tamir & I work for Time Warner Inc #SXSW2016," she tweeted.
SXSW, an annual cultural festival in Austin, Texas, released a public apology on 13 March for the incident. "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 have apologised to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident," the festival said.
The 30-year-old number 7 in the world in saber, who has several sponsors including Visa and American Airlines, was reportedly asked about sponsors who might be against her speaking out about the incident. The Tribune reported she said: "If a sponsor wants to walk away ... they weren't meant for me anyways."
According to The Guardian, SXSW had a similarly embarrassing situation occur in October after it cut a discussion on online harassment following threats from an online hate campaign. The festival later reinstated the panel and expanded it to a full-day event covering the issues of bullying, misogyny and hate speech online.