Martial arts has always been a source of empowerment for many.
For Noor Al-Henedy and her fellow Muslim women, it was the only solution to feel safe after a series of attacks targeting Black and Muslim women in recent weeks.
“It’s been a trend where we’ve seen five in a span of weeks so the community came together and felt that action needed to be taken,” said Al-Henedy, the communications and public relations director for Al Rashid Mosque, CTV News reported.
“It is really in a way taking a stand and saying we will not tolerate the abuse that our women are going through,” she said. “It’s not right.”
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Self-defense classes organized by Muslim community groups kicked off in Edmonton on February 21, with each class hosting around 24 people after organizers got the go-ahead from provincial health official.
The goal is to replace the fear the women feel with confidence.
“Believing and understanding that you can and you are strong enough,” said a World Taekwondo Federation 3rd Dan Black Belt and class instructor who asked for anonymity.
“It really starts before an attack. It starts within yourself. You have to have the right mental state. You have to have the right sort of confidence and as females that really tends to be very difficult,” she added.
“Any woman, regardless of whether she’s a Muslim or not need to be very vigilant and very aware especially if she’s walking alone,” said Al-Henedy.
“There could be a form of harassment or attack against her unfortunately it’s just something women around the world have to go through.”
Similar initiatives to teach Muslim women have become popular in recent years.
In 2018, Rana Abdelhamid, a young Muslim business woman, created a new self-defense technique against attacks involving grabbing the hijab.
Chicago-based self-defense instructor Zaineb Abdulla also, in 2016, published videos teaching Muslim women how to respond to hate attacks and trials to grab their hijab.
A similar effort was done by Nafiza Aziz in Toronto, when she created a new hub for Muslim women empowerment, with the help of a hijab-wearing martial artist with black belts in karate and taekwondo.