Muslim woman takes photo in front of anti-Muslim protest and people absolutely love it
Last Saturday, 24-year-old Shaymaa Ismaa’eel attended the annual Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) convention in Washington D.C. Thrown by a dynamic educational Muslim organization, the conference featured speakers, workshops, and a huge bazaar. The itinerary also included special events, like a blood drive, community service, midnight basketball and an open mic competition.
However, like many attendees, the first thing Ismaa’eel noticed when she arrived was a group of anti-Muslim protesters. "This is what the bigot’s America has produced at the Icna Convention in DC," tweeted one attendee, Owaiz Dadabhoy. "Bigots with loudspeakers harassing Muslims verbally without stop since yesterday. Shame on them and the politicians and Islamaphobes who sow discord."
The Christian protesters held up signs reading "Jesus is the way" and "Islam is a religion of blood and murder," according to images on social media. And indeed, one man in a garish "You need Jesus" shirt can be seen with a megaphone. But Ismaa’eel, who works as a behavioral therapist for children with autism in D.C., was not intimidated. Instead of angrily confronting the obnoxious protestors, she took a photo in front of them with a radiant smile.
"Most people were very upset and didn't know how to embrace their presence," Ismaa’eel told BuzzFeed News. "Some teens were getting upset, trying to approach the men... [After going inside the convention] 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."
So, after leaving the main building, Ismaa’eel saw the protesters again, and decided to take the picture. "My face honestly lit up when I had seen [them]," she said. "I yelled to my friend Jamilah, 'There they are! Can you take a picture?' 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."
Ismaa’eel continued: "I smiled so hard in the picture and the man [started] directing his speech toward me. Silly things like 'your face should be covered.'" But again, the buoyant young woman took it in stride. "Overall, this didn’t ruin the experience for me in the slightest."
Ismaa'eel's stunning photo got over 66,000 likes on Instagram, and quickly spread to Twitter. People absolutely loved the image, and praised the 24-year-old for combating ignorant hatred with kindness. "I didn’t expect more than my usual 120 likes," she said. "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."
On Twitter, Ismaa'eel shared the image, writing, "On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment." In the replies, one person gushed, "THESE PICTURES BELONG IN A MUSEUM! WE STAN!" while another wished Christians would stop being so ignorant and hateful toward Muslims.
"As a Christian, I wish people would recognize that the extremists of Islam are not any different from the extremists of Christians and that the two religions should work together to celebrate the peaceful worshipers," wrote Twitter user @mapofsoulnicole. "I don’t have to follow Islam to respect y’all."