In recent years, hate crimes against Muslim people in America have surged, peaking in the weeks after the election of Donald Trump. While overall, hate crimes in 2015 saw a 6% increase from the year before, hate crimes against Muslims increased by 67%. In New York City, hate crimes in 2016 were up 35% from 2015. It is a dangerous time to be a Muslim person and a woman in the US. That's exactly why two women have partnered with the International Muslim Women’s Initiative for Self Empowerment (I’M WISE or WISE) to create a series of videos called the Self Defense Starter Kit.
The brainchild of Robie Flores and Ali Withers, the Self Defense Starter kit offers brief explainers on various forms of self defense, from how de-escalate a dangerous situation with just your voice to how to defend yourself if someone grabs your hijab. The videos star Rana Abdelhamid, a Shotokan Karate Black Belt who founded and is the executive director of WISE, and Maryam Aziz, a second degree Goju Ryu Karatedo Black Belt and the Chief Self Defense Instructor of WISE.
The videos are brief and fun, and provide guides to eight simple self defense techniques. Flores told Teen Vogue about the series:
"We made these videos with women in mind. Street harassment is something we all deal with on a very regular basis that it's become so normalized we don't mention every single time it happens, and this is alarming and a very serious problem, especially for visible minorities.”
Withers mentioned that the videos are meant to be a starting point for women and other minorities to understanding “the power of your own body and voice.” Between people generally feeling emboldened to spew hateful things at total strangers who look different than them—or, worse, to physically harm them—and Trump targeting immigrants and Muslims with executive orders and other forms of propaganda, it’s clear that women and people of color are more vulnerable than ever.
"We recognize that self-defense is not the main solution. But it's about building women's capacity to be able to defend oneself as we continue to fight the good fight," Abdelhamid told Teen Vogue.
It is insane that we live in a world where women are threatened to the point where self defense is a sound, smart, and practical thing to learn. It’s insane that we have to teach Muslim women how to deflect someone grabbing their hijab. But that's the world we live in—so not only is the Self Defense Starter Kit empowering, it’s necessary.