A badass Muslim woman from the Washington D.C. area took a stand against bigotry and hate by showing kindness — and posing for the camera in front of a group of hateful protesters over the weekend.
Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, a 24-year-old behavioral therapist for children with autism, attended the Islamic Circle of North America convention on Saturday. At the event, the first thing she saw was a group of men protesting outside the convention area with offensive signs while verbally harassing Muslims passing by the event.
Many of those attending the event became very upset by the sight, including a group of teens as they tried to approach the men, said Ismaa’eel. The only way she could combat this level of hatred was through kindness.
On the third day of the event, the 24-year-old therapist asked her friend Jamilah to take a photo of her as she posed in front of these protesters while donning a huge smile and a peace sign.
“I wanted them to see my face and walking by wasn’t enough. We were busy Saturday and they had left by the time things at the convention slowed down,”
she said while speaking to BuzzFeed
. “I kept thinking about them during the workshops. ‘What if we had a loud speaker so they can hear the beautiful things we’re learning about our beloved prophet?!’ I kept thinking to myself.”
After leaving the main building at the event to do some shopping, Ismaa’eel saw the protesters again, and this time she finally thought about taking the picture with them.
“My face honestly lit up when I had seen. I yelled to my friend Jamilah, ‘There they are! Can you take a picture?’” she told the publication. “I walked up as they continued yelling their hateful speech. I asked the police officer if I could stand at the curb in front of the men. The officer said ‘no’, and in that moment I felt like the biggest rebel.”
“I smiled so hard in the picture and the man [started] directing his speech toward me. Silly things like ‘your face should be covered.'”
While she had been focused on the tirade that the protesters shouted at the convention, Ismaa’eel said that she had a great time despite what happened. She was also surprised by the number of people who supported her.
“Overall, this didn’t ruin the experience for me in the slightest,” she said, adding that she did not expect the number of likes she gained from so many people — more than the usual 120 likes she would receive in the past.
“The positivity from this is very uplifting and it’s making me happy to know that the youth can see someone being unapologetic in the face of people who hate their religion.”
She then went on to reveal that her mother was not a huge fan of what she did at the convention when she took a photo with the protesters.
“My mom messaged me when my post was at 3k saying ‘Your ICNA post is all over the place. Please be aware of your surroundings.’ She’s definitely nervous because it’s clear people like that typically aren’t the kindest.”
“Everyone is proud of me honestly while praying for my safety,” she told BuzzFeed.