Meet the 20-something teaching Muslim women how to defend themselves

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Moya Crockett
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Since Donald Trump won the Presidential election, there has been a dramatic surge in the number of hate crimes being reported in the United States.

In the days and weeks following his shock victory, many Muslim American women took to social media to express their anxiety about wearing the hijab in public. And when reports surfaced about women having their headscarves ripped off by Trump supporters, these fears were shown as being disturbingly legitimate.

Heartbreakingly, some Muslim women have been deliberating whether they feel safe wearing the hijab outside at all. But in Chicago, others are turning to one 24-year-old woman for help.

Zaineb ‘Zee’ Abdulla has long been teaching general self-defence classes to women as vice-president of the organisation Deaf Planet Soul, according to the Washington Post.

But when Trump became President-elect, she began receiving calls from Muslim women wanting to know how they could protect themselves if someone tried to pull off their hijab.

It was Islamophobic abuse that first highlighted the importance of self-defence to Abdulla, after she was spat on at just eight years old for wearing the hijab. And so she teamed up with another mixed martial arts trainer, Miso Ceko, to help train women to defend themselves against so-called “hijab grabs”.

On the Sunday following the election, nine – predominantly Muslim – women attended Abdulla’s “hate crime survival seminar”, where they were taught how to report hate crimes as well as how to respond if they were attacked.

She posted videos of the class on Facebook and urged her friends and followers to share them widely, “especially with our sisters in the ‘redder’ [more Republican] states”.

“In this post-election hate-crime spike, self defense is more important than ever,” Abdulla wrote under one of her videos, in which she is seen flipping Ceko to the ground after he mock-attempts to yank off her hijab. “Practice this move until it becomes muscle memory and teach your body to react before thinking.”

"I have a lot of messages from women saying they didn’t think it was possible to fight back," she said.

Since then, the videos have gone viral, with over 3.5 million views and 57,000 shares at the time of writing. The Washington Post reports that Abdulla has received almost 75 requests for classes in other parts of the world, including in the UK.

Main image: Facebook / Zee Abdulla