Muslim woman is fighting back after violent attack where thug tried to yank off her hijab

Muslim woman is fighting back after violent attack where thug tried to yank off her hijab

A Muslim woman who was brutally attacked as a teen by a thug who tried to pull off her hijab has hit back by launching her own self-defence classes for women. Rana Abdelhamid, a 25-year-old woman from New York, was a victim of a frightening hate crime while she was walking back to the offices of a women’s shelter where she volunteered. Despite being shaken by the assault, Rana (a skilled martial artist) decided to invite a small group of girls to a community centre to talk about similar incidents six months later.

Rana was disturbed by how often vulnerable women had been attacked, harassed or threatened by strangers, and thus she founded Malikah: a global organisation aimed at teaching self-defence to vulnerable women. Originally intending for it to be a one-off session, the enterprise has now expanded. Rana has developed a training module to teach other women to host self-defence classes in their own communities, and now Malikah has chapters in New York, Dallas, DC, Maryland, Virginia, Texas, California and Michigan, and classes have been held in Edinburgh in Scotland, Madrid in Spain, Jordan and Dublin in Ireland.

Rana's self-defence classes., Credit: Press Association

Commenting on the crime that inspired her to fight back in a recent interview, Rana stated: "I remember feeling a pull at the back of my hijab and feeling someone grab me and really try to pull it off my head. I also remember turning around and seeing a really tall, broad-shouldered man with hate in his eyes and feeling really terrified by it. I was just so confused. Why did someone hate me so much when they didn’t know me? I couldn’t understand why, even though he didn’t know me and he didn’t know my story, or why I chose to wear the hijab, he still attacked me."

She added: "At 16, when I started the classes, I only knew how to connect with and relate to the teens in my immediate vicinity. If I’d rolled up to another community I wasn’t connected to, no one would have opened up. I didn’t have the layers of trust that I’d built in my own community, although a woman who knew them would ...When I see the way women can uplift each other and develop each other, it’s really magical."

Rana has even visited the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, to help to empower women and girls there. "I started with a healing space for 14 and 15-year-old girls," Rana said. "Many of them had lost family members during the war. Others were survivors of wartime violence and were still experiencing violence in the camps."

"A lot of these girls were being pulled out of school by families for their own protection, because they were being harassed on the way, sometimes by officers or guards in the camp. The girls were so frustrated that they started a photo campaign, where they held signs saying, ‘No to street harassment’ and posted them all over the camp. It was so inspiring."

An image of Rana Abdelhamid. Credit: Press Association

To learn more about Rana's incredible project, and the impact it has had on other people, visit Malikah's official website for more information.