Another controversy for the corporate hipster branding festival SXSW, now underway in Austin, TX through Sunday, March 20. After canceling an online harassment panel because of online harassment and drawing conservative ire over the scheduling of President Obama, the festival faces another cycle of bad press for asking a Muslim panelist to remove her hijab headscarf in order to get her conference badge. Ibtihaj Muhammad, described by the NY Daily News as a “Muslim-American fencing powerhouse”, appeared on a panel discussion Saturday. But her check-in brouhaha demanding the removal of hijab is attracting the lion’s share of media attention.
I was just asked to remove my hijab at SXSW Registration for my ID badge.. I can't make this stuff up #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
Even after I explained it was for religious reasons, he insisted I had to remove my hijab for the photo to receive my badge #SXSW2016— Ibtihaj Muhammad (@IbtihajMuhammad) March 12, 2016
The SXSW festival quickly apologized and blamed it all on an overzealous volunteer. “It is not our policy that a hijab or any religious head covering be removed in order to pick up a SXSW badge," organizers said in a statement. "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 and have apologized to Ibtihaj in person, and sincerely regret this incident.”
With the hijab thing now ostensibly settled, the SXSW festival continues for the rest of this week and has numerous San Francisco connections. In addition to the multiple local startups attempting to garner attention at the fest, Google will demo some self-driving cars throughout the fest, and several Bay Area musical artists are scheduled to perform. But for all of it’s alleged coolness, SXSW isn’t that cool if your last name is “Muhammad”.