Muslim Woman Creates Self-Defense Videos To Keep Others Safe

"My community's first instinct was fear. Our second instinct was action."

In the weeks after the presidential election, many across the country found themselves facing a new, uncertain future. As the Southern Poverty Law Center created a new website to report hate crimes and the FBI reported that the number of assaults against Muslim Americans had reached a level similar to that after the 9/11 attacks, minorities began to fear that their race, religion or ethnicity would turn them into a statistic.

Wearing a hijab is an important part of the cultural and religious identity of Muslim women, but it also makes them some of the most visible members of the community. A female Muslim student at the University of Washington was hit in the face with a bottle by a male on campus in early November, and a Muslim student at San Jose State University had her hijab yanked from behind as she walked to car. 

The police were called in both instances, but some felt the best way to fight back was to arm themselves with the tools and knowledge to protect themselves. 

Zaineb Abdulla was one of those people. A self-defense instructor in Chicago, Abdulla used her training to teach others in the Muslim community how to protect themselves from would-be attackers. In the days after the election, she said her organization Deaf Planet Soul (DPS) —  a nonprofit that works with people who are deaf and hard of hearing — received an unprecedented number of requests for such knowledge. 

"In this new era of yelling insults and ripping off hijabs, my community's first instinct was fear," Abdulla wrote in an op-ed for Middle East Eye. "Our second instinct was action."

Abdulla and her team released a series of videos called "Hijab Grab Escapes." In them, Abdulla demonstrates various techniques for a woman to use if someone tries to forcibly remove her hijab, including breaking down how to defend yourself from an attack from the front into 5 simple steps:

1. Grab their wrist

2. Take your other arm

3. And put it over and through the attacker's arm

4. Now push back against the attacker's shoulder

5. Sit down and stop the attacker's arm

Deaf Planet Soul also hosts weekly self-defense classes taught in ASL and spoken English, which they believe to be the only ones of their kind in the country. 

"The videos are necessary not only for the practical application, but for the symbolism they encapsulate: they went viral almost immediately after posting mainly because Muslim women are no longer willing to be victimized by bigots whether, verbally, physically or emotionally," Abdulla wrote. "We are standing up and standing together."

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A Plus reached out to Abdulla for a comment.

(H/T: The Huffington Post)