NEW YORK – A vicious Islamophobic crime against her was the catalyst for this young Muslim business woman. Rana Abdelhamid, a 24-year-old Egyptian from Queens, New York was accosted by a man who tried to rip off her hijab when she was 15.
Since then, she’s made it her mission to empower Muslim women to defend themselves against anti-Muslim terrorism and harassment — on the street and in the workplace.
Abdelhamid is now an internationally acclaimed community organizer and social entrepreneur. She is the founder of Hijabis of New York.
Her work as founder of Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE) has led to coverage in AJ+ with over 1 million views, in addition to L’oreal award that got thousands of votes, as well as an online self-defense kit with one million hits, and features in Teen Vogue, BBC, and HuffPost.
The influential American Muslim has three siblings. She played karate during childhood and holds a black belt in Shotokan karate.
She first pitched her idea for a self-defense class with women teaching women to her imam at the Queens Community Center when she was sixteen. The class was rejected, but Abdelhamid continued to try and finally held her first class for WISE in 2010.
Since then, WISE chapters have been created in other parts of the USA and internationally, in Edinburgh, Dublin, and Madrid. The program has also grown to incorporate a summer camp in New York called Mentee Muslimah.
Abdelhamid describes creating WISE as “part of her ‘healing process,'” according to Elle. She told National Catholic Reporter that the so-called “hijab grabs” are a common experience for Muslim women.
In addition to promoting physical strength, Abdelhamid aims to help women excel in their careers and at home. Participants can take courses on how to write a proper business plan or budget their personal finances.
The young lady who is able to speak English, Arabic and Spanish attended Middlebury College as a Posse Foundation Scholar, where she majored in international politics and economics.
At Middlebury, she and others organized a local chapter of Amnesty International USA. After graduating from Middlebury, she attended the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, after earning a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.
She is a recipient of the 2015 United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNAUSA) Leo Nevas Human Rights Youth Award, and the Running Start Rising Political Star.
UNAUSA is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to building an understanding of and support for the ideals and work of the UN among the American people.
Abdelhamid also currently works full time at Google Cloud as a brand marketer where she is thrilled to say her team is predominantly female.