US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has lauded the achievements of American Muslim sportspersons for competing at the national and international stages without compromising the tenets of their faith.
Speaking at an Eid al-Fitr reception held in Washington on Wednesday to honour Muslim sportspersons, Clinton said: 'I am delighted to honour young athletes who are carving their own futures in the history of our country.'
Members of Congress Keith Ellison and Sheila Jackson Lee attended the reception held to honour some of the key athletes from the global Muslim community, the US Department of State said.
Clinton reiterated America's respect for Muslims and Islam dating as far back as the era of past presidents George Washington, Adams and Jefferson.
'We celebrate that history. Today we wanted to celebrate sports and athletic competition, whether it's the Olympics or the World Cup. The human drive to run faster and climber higher is universal and universally celebrated; it is also a way by which talent rises to the top, ability is what matters and people are treated equally,' said Clinton.
British professional boxer Amir Khan, National Football League (NFL) veteran Ephraim Salaam, weightlifter Kulthoom Abdullah and fencer Ibtihaj Mohamed were some of the notable honourees.
Khan, 24, is of Pakistani descent and is currently the unified IBF and WBA World Light Welterweight Champion.
Offensive tackler Salaam who is of Ethiopian descent and currently a free agent, has played with distinction for the Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, Detroit Lions and Houston Texans.
Atlanta native Kulsoom, 35, who holds a doctorate in computer engineering, and 25-year-old Maplewood resident Ibtihaj both compete wearing the hijab, conforming to the Islamic dress code for Muslim women.
Praising the Muslim women athletes' commitment, Clinton said, 'Ibtihaj Mohamed fences in her hijab, when she trains 30 hour each week without missing a prayer, she's thinking about winning and she's thinking about the London Olympics next year.'
Ibtihaj took to fencing because the sport requires the competitor to be completely covered including wearing a protective face mask.
'My mother suggested that I should try fencing when I got to high school since the fencer is fully covered. As a Muslim female, the sport was uniquely accommodating. My religion requires that my body be fully covered and fencing did just that,' Ibtihaj's says in the US Fencing website.
'I think it's fair to say that , as her mother has said, many people are proud of her and recognize that she is representing more than just herself in her endeavours,' said Clinton on Ibtihaj's sports aspirations for her country.
'I'm very proud that in our country, despite the challenges, we do honour the freedom of religion. Too many countries in the world today do not, or they make it difficult and even dangerous for people to try to exercise their religion.
'So as difficult as it may be, the fact that we get up every day and keep trying is a real tribute to all of us. So at this time of celebration and reflection, and as we mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a new year of renewal and possibility, I hope we can recommit ourselves to the common cause of spreading peace, prosperity, understanding to all the people of the earth.'
Source: Gulf Times