SHAFAQNA – An increasing number of Muslim women in the US are attending self-defence classes.
It follows a sharp rise in Muslim hate crimes since the Paris attacks and the shootings in San Bernardino.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says the number of incidents has tripled and 80% of the victims are women.
“There really is a need for Muslim women to protect themselves in this society,” said Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s National Communications Director.
She said the “flood gates really opened” after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump suggested a ban on Muslims entering the country.
“Even after 9/11, Islamophobia was there but it was on the fringe of society. Now thanks to Donald Trump and Ben Carson and others, Islamophobia is firmly in the mainstream.
“People who attack Muslims on the local level – they view it as almost their patriotic duty based on this kind of extremist, bigoted rhetoric.”
Another advocacy group, the Bridge Initiative, says FBI figures show Muslims in the US are five times more likely to experience hate crimes than they were before 9/11.
The group’s Assistant Director, Engy Abdelkader, said the negative portrayals of Muslims in the media and the “hostile political climate” in the presidential campaign were largely to blame.
She said she found it “disturbing” that Muslim women now feel “compelled” to learn how to protect themselves.
Rana Abdelhamid, a self-defence instructor, said the headscarves and hijabs worn by Muslim women can sometimes turn them into “walking targets”.
“You can be attacked at any point, you can be pushed off… a subway ledge,” she said.
“All these different things that go through these young women’s minds… increases their vulnerability and increases their sense of fear.”
One of the women in her class, Kristin Sekerci, an American convert to Islam, said they were living in “a very scary time”.
“I wanted to be able to learn some basic self-defence moves so I could defend myself if, God forbid, something like that happens,” she said.
“You stand out. It’s not fair but it’s the reality and you have to equip yourself to be able to face that.”