Self-defense classes for Muslim women in the west, especially for those wearing a hijab, are becoming needed more than ever.
Due to concerns about Islamophobia, many women are making their mission to empower Muslim women to defend themselves against anti-Muslim terrorism and harassment — on the street and in the workplace.
These classes help fill an important need for Muslim women who may feel especially vulnerable in the current political and social climate.
Fauzia Lala, a provisional black belt in taekwando, is one of those taking a step forward to help their fellow Muslim women.
Though she is well versed in the intricacies of sparring, she experienced harassment on the job several times when she worked for Microsoft and had felt too frightened to speak up about it.
“Here I am a black belt that ended up crying and leaving; that’s just crazy,” Lala told Christian Science Monitor.
Unable to find training that would allow her to protect herself and speak up when needed, Lala developed her own defense class.
Today, she is the head instructor of Defense Ninjas, a women’s self-defense school based in Washington.
“Everybody everywhere needs to know self-defense, and currently it’s only being taught in forms of workshops or kickboxing, and that’s not effective,” said Lala.
“We need the whole curriculum, the emotional side. We need the therapeutic side, the meditation, the yoga – everything that women need.”
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.