Many Muslim women in cities across the United States of America have been organizing self-defense classes in response to the postelection rhetoric and apparent spike in hate crimes in the country.
In Memphis, a Muslim activist named Kalimah Azeez met with local police officials to plan a self-defense course at a local mosque, McClatchy reported.
Participants will be able to learn “escape and evade tactics” and watch video tutorials on how to use an emergency-response app to record an attack and alert the authorities, Astro Awani television news reported.
Other women are seeking out tools to help them feel a sense of security. One such item is the Tigerlady Self-Defense Claw, a handheld tool with plastic blades that is marketed to female joggers, according to the McClatchy article. A Tigerlady executive said the company has “definitely seen a rise in sales as a result of the election.”
From her side, Zaineb Abdulla says she was about eight years old the first time someone spits on her for being a Muslim. Abdulla who wears a hijab weighs 105 pounds and stands just over 5 feet tall is used to feeling the need to protect herself.
Through her role as vice president of an organization called Deaf Planet Soul in Chicago, Abdulla had been teaching basic self-defense classes to help other women including those who are deaf or who wear a hijab feel prepared and empowered to fight back, she said in an interview with The Washington Post.
The morning after Donald Trump won the presidency on Wednesday 2nd of November, a number of Muslim women called Abdulla, asking her for on type of self-defense training: What could they do is someone tried to grab them by their headscarves?
That same day, and in the days that followed, Muslim women in cities across the country reported being targeted for wearing hijabs. A Muslim student at San Jose State University reportedly struggled to breathe as a man yanked her headscarf from behind. A San Diego State University student wearing a hijab reported that two men who made comments about Trump and Muslims robbed her.
Abdulla immediately recruited help from a trainer, Misho Ceko, of Chicago Mixed Martial Arts, to teach women a set of moves to defend themselves in case someone tries to pull on their hijabs. On the Sunday after Election Day, Abdulla taught nine mostly Muslim women a 2-hour “hate crime survival seminar,” during which they learned how to escape a “hijab grab,” how to identify and report hate crimes, and what steps to follow as a bystander.
“It gives us confidence,” Abdulla said of the self-defense classes. They help women realize that “if someone grabs you, you have the ability and the right to fight back.”
She decided to post videos of the moves on Facebook and urged her friends to share the videos widely. “In this postelection hate-crime spike, self-defense is more important than ever. Practice this move until it becomes muscle memory and teach your body to react before thinking,” she wrote.
In one of the videos, she shows women how to respond if a perpetrator grabs a headscarf from behind. Enacting the scenario with a partner, and using sign language to explain the steps, Abdulla steps back create an “Overhook” (a clinch hold that is used to control the opponent) with the perpetrator’s arm and elevates her elbow upward to lock him in a hold.
By the time she woke up the morning after posting the videos, they had already gone viral; she had said. About a week later, one of the videos had received more than 3.5 million views and had been shared more than 57,000 times. She has since received nearly 75 requests for similar classes, from Muslim women in countries as far as the United Kingdom, Morocco, and Nigeria.
She already has two self-defense seminars planned for early December and hopes to help coordinate sessions in other parts of the country as well.
“I have a lot of messages from women saying they didn’t think it was possible to fight back,” Abdulla said.
In the days following Trump’s election, at least three organizations – The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Anti-Defamation League, tracked a notable spike in hate-crime incidents, The Post reported.
In all of 2015, hate crimes against Muslims hit the highest mark in more than a decade, which experts and advocates say was fueled by anger over terrorist attacks and anti-Islam rhetoric on the campaign trail, Matt Zapotosky reported in The Post.
Law enforcement agencies nationwide reported 257 anti-Muslim incidents in 2015, an increase of 67 percent from the year before, according to FBI data released last week.
Many Muslim women have posted on social media describing “hijab grab” attacks similar to those enacted by Abdullah.
“Guys, a Trump supporter tried pulling off my hijab… This is not a joke anymore, all non-whites have become targets. Stay safe”
“Today a white boy at school pulled off my friend’s hijab just because he felt like it…So much for making America great again, huh Trump?”
“A dude pulled off my friend’s hijab… you have NO IDEA how much she cried. I hate what this world’s become.”
Abdulla, whose parents fled to the United States seeking asylum from Iraq, said some Muslim women feel a sense of isolation walking outside alone while wearing a headscarf. She said she hopes these self-defense classes help them realize they are not alone in their fears.
“We have an army of allies,” she said. “Despite this increased anger, there’s also an increased sense of coalition building.”
One of the most important aspects of the “hate crime survival” training, Abdulla said, is the bystander intervention component. She frequently thinks back to the time when she was on a crowded train headed to downtown Chicago, about two years ago, and a man began yelling racial slurs at her. When she asked him to leave her alone, the man spits on her.
“People were watching this man berate me and not doing anything,” she said.
Not all of responses to her videos were positive, she said. Some comments, which she later deleted were violent or incendiary, making statements such as “‘That’s why you don’t rip off the scarf. You shoot them in the head.'”
Others critics said that instead of teaching women how to defend themselves in such cases, people should be taught not to grab women’s headscarves in the first place. Abdulla said she agreed.
“Unfortunately that’s the state we’re in,” she said. But, she added, “I would rather be prepared while working to make long-term change. I can’t do everything all at the same time.”
It is noteworthy that criminal hate crime incidents reported to police increased 6.8 percent in the US in 2015, according to official FBI data released last Sunday.
There were 5,850 incidents in 2015, compared to 5479 reported in 2014, the widely anticipated report showed, Huffington Post reported.
In a period of heightened anti-Islamic prejudice, increased terror attacks, and political vitriol, hate crimes against Muslims surged 67 percent from 154 in 2014 to 257 in 2015, the second highest number on record since national reporting commenced in 1992.
The FBI anti-Muslim hate crime numbers for 2015 were right in line with original estimates released in September by California State University San Bernardino’s Center for the study of hate and extremism and reported in the New York Times, “The new study from Levin’s nonpartisan group, based on official police reports in 20 states, estimated that there were about 260 hate crimes against Muslims nationwide in 2015.”
In the September study 4.5 percent of all hate crimes were directed against Muslims, again very close to the FBI numbers for the whole nation
Over half of all hate crime, 3,310 or 56.6 percent, was committed by race, 52.7 percent of which was anti-black and 18.5 percent anti-white. African Americans comprise 13 percent of the US population.
A hate crime is a criminal offense motivated in whole or in part by the actual or perceived group status of another, such as race and ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.
The FBI tracks over 30 different types of bias motivations within the broad categories listed above. In 2015 the agency added new subgroups; anti-Sikh and anti-Hindu under religions, and anti-Arab in the race/ethnicity category. The Hate Crime Statistics Act was passed on April 23, 1990, and the first national study featured 1992 data.