When 24-year-old Shaymaa Ismaa’eel was met by protestors shouting abuse at her and her friends, instead of shouting back, turning around or even just ignoring them, she responded in the best way possible.
The 24-year-old was attending a conference in Washington D.C. on Sunday (April 21) when a group of anti-Islam protestors started shouting at her and her friends, saying they were going to hell and holding placards denouncing Islam.
In response, Shaymaa crouched down, threw up a peace sign and gave the camera massive smile.
In just a few seconds, with such a simple act, Shaymaa had completely undermined the protestors and exposed the absurdity of the situation. As the looks on the protestors faces show, they had no idea how to respond.
The photo has resulted in a huge amount of support for Shaymaa, with the photo receiving over 121,600 likes at time of writing.
She told The Guardian:
I wanted them to see the smile on my face, and see how happy I was to be me and walk around being a Muslim woman. I wanted to show them that we are going to remain kind and unapologetic, and continue to spread love in the face of bigotry.
The 24-year-old was attending the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) convention, which brings together thousands of Muslims every year.
The protestors had been there the day before, and Shaymaa waked past them. Seeing them again, however, she knew she had to do something.
My face lit up when I saw them again, because I wanted them to see my joy. I just wish they could hear all the love being spread inside the conference instead of protesting outside.
Shaymaa said she and her friends have received such reactions before, often feeling unsafe while outside wearing their hijabs. It’s not the first time she’s seen protestors and taken photos in front of them either.
In light of the recent atrocities however, her photo has taken on new meaning.
Today, we are getting more unapologetic – we aren’t afraid anymore. Today more than ever we are aware of our struggles and we want to stand up for ourselves.
At the conference she was attending, the speaker talked about the recent shootings in New Zealand, noting how the first victim greeted the shooter, saying ‘Hello, brother’, which is something Shaymaa remembered when she encountered the protestors.
His last words were a sign of kindness he was giving someone in the face of hatred. I want young Muslim children to know that we can still love our religion no matter who hates it.
If you have a story you want to tell send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.