The rates of Islamaphobic hate crimes targeting Muslims have been on the rise worldwide. Whether verbal or physical, attacks have been prominent over the years within the United States of America. Muslim Americans are in a constant state of watching over their backs. Especially Muslim women who wear the hijab, since they are a direct representation of their faith.
The fear of being harassed or assaulted as a female is already anxiety-inducing enough. Now imagine having to carry that weight along with the hostility against you for your lifestyle and religion. F.B.I data has cataloged 1,715 victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019, with 13.2% being victims of anti-Islamic (Muslim) bias.
How can you protect yourself?
Although some women choose to blend in with the crowd and remove their hijabs as a means of protecting themselves from hate crimes, this is not a solution. Your choices and devotion to your faith should never be something to bring you fear. Everyone has a right to believe, dress, and proudly bear whatever identity they want to have. Instead of being afraid, we need to be brave. To always be prepared to protect ourselves in times of need. That does not necessarily mean to carry a weapon wherever you go, but to not put yourself in harm’s way and to train yourself in case any harm befalls upon you.
Some suggestions for safety include: Make sure you are aware of your surroundings. Try not to be alone in isolated or dark places and always have a means of communication on hand so you can contact someone in case of an emergency. Lock your car once you get inside of it. Use your strength and be loud if the situation escalates to that extreme. That is when self-defense skills become essential to keep yourself safe in those types of circumstances.
Why should you learn these skills?
Self-defense is not only crucial for de-escalating a dangerous situation, but it also gives you the confidence to be prepared to face one in the first place. By removing fear, you will have more room for both physical and mental strength, which will allow you to be more alert for any dangers ahead.
“Self-defense training is one piece of empowering women to feel safe and secure”, states MALIKAH, a nonprofit organization that provides training programs for women in self-defense and other inclusive resources. Their website features a “Self Defense Tool Kit” that includes multiple videos demonstrating various techniques. This tool kit is also available on YouTube as a channel featuring all the videos. Here is a link to one of the skills that fight off a frequent attack, stopping someone from taking off your hijab:
Is self-defense hard to learn?
Although professional training is recommended, some self-defense techniques could be practiced and learned at home through step-by-step guides and tutorials. Techniques that involve blocking, striking, and using pressure points are considered basics. More advanced skills consist of martial arts, grappling, and more intense hits.
A guide for eight self-defense moves featured on Healthline includes a description of each move along with a visual video tutorial of how to perform them. You might need a consenting partner to (safely) practice the techniques with or on. The moves include a hammer strike, groin kick, heel palm strike, elbow strike, alternative elbow strikes, escape from a ‘bear hug attack’, escape with hands trapped, and an escape from side headlock.
What do you do if you get verbally/physically assaulted?
If you find yourself subject to any form of assault or harassment, then contact authorities or ask for help immediately. Try not to engage with the attacker unless you have to protect yourself.
If you are physically harmed, then call an ambulance to obtain medical assistance and assess any injuries.
If you need emotional support after an attack, you can contact your local Islamic center or any support group that could help you heal after your experience. Therapy is always a beneficial source as well.
Another valuable resource to contact is the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that specializes in advocating for Muslim civil rights in every region across the states. You can reach out to or find your local chapter through their website.
Photo credit: Photo provided by Creative Commons.