As anti-Islam tone rises in U.S., Muslim women learn self-defense

Thu Mar 17, 2016 4:57pm EDT
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(This version of the March 11 story corrects the nationality to Moroccan-American, not native of Afghanistan, in the last paragraph)

By Mana Rabiee

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Some 20 women in Islamic hijab worried by rising anti-Muslim rhetoric in the United States watched on a recent night as their self-defense instructor showed them how to punch a would-be attacker.

"Kiai!" shouted Rana Abdelhamid, an Egyptian-American with a black belt in shotokan karate, as she demonstrated the blow.

"I'm fighting - Kiai! That's how loud I want you to be," Abdelhamid, a Muslim human rights activist and native of Queens, New York, told the group.

The women followed her lead, some shouting the martial arts cry louder than others.

The workshops launched by Abdelhamid for women are among a number of similar classes around the United States that have sprung up as Muslims perceive themselves to be under increasing threat.

The feeling has intensified with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's call in December to ban Muslims from entering the country.

"You can be attacked at any point. You can be pushed off ... of a subway ledge," said Abdelhamid. She added that headscarves and the hijab can sometimes turn Muslim women into targets.   Continued...

Egyptian-American community activist Rana Abdelhamid demonstrates how to hold one's fist for an attack punch during a self-defense workshop designed for Muslim women in Washington, DC, March 4, 2016 in this handout photo provided by Rawan Elbaba. Picture taken March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Rawan Elbaba/Handout via Reuters