Islamophobia was once just an academic whisper, but now it’s a topic discussed amongst many progressives and activists alike. Violence is on the rise against Muslims and those mistakenly stereotyped as Muslim. It’s time those of us reacted by learning how to defend ourselves against these violent aggressions.
On December 12, a group of my friends organized an all women’s self-defense class that was held at a local Houston mosque. The mosque took an initiative to host an unconventional event, and in addition, given the current climate for American-Muslims and the violent rhetoric targeting Muslims, a class for women on how to protect themselves from any man or woman who intends to bring them harm is empowering, and necessary.
The class was held by a female instructor, who happens to be non-Muslim, who brought her teenage son, another young male volunteer, and another female volunteer. We had a total of two young men as an option for women who wanted to learn how to defend themselves against a man using the proper techniques.
Everything changed when the female Director of the ISGH masjid walked into the women’s section of the mosque yelling, “What are you doing here, get out!” Through a very unfortunate exchange between her and one of the organizers, the decision was to just move the class to the patio.
Later that evening, the following email was sent out:
I have been doing Quranic classes for new learners in the mosque Women’s area since Sept. 2015. It was mentioned in the Annual Report and the attendees of the masjid are well aware of it. My time of class is 12.00 p.m. till 1:30 p.m. Today there were a lot of young men and women in the women’s area. I asked them to what was going on, they said they are being taught self -defense. To my dismay, I saw young girls in hijab grabbing boys hands kicking legs up in the air and kicking the boy aiming at his groin area. IT WAS A SHOCKING SIGHT! I informed them to leave at which point a young person started arguing with me and was being disrespectful even calling me a lair. He kept saying he has permission from the AD to conduct this class with some instructors. I am shocked to say that this activity went on in the patio and was observed by my students, another teacher, and my husband at 12:30 p.m. AD is promoting haram activity right in the prayer hall of the ladies section. He should not have allowed any such activity in Masjid S——__. This is a serious matter and the Shura should ask for his resignation immediately!
-Signed Director of __ ISGH”
Finally, when our mosques make an effort to attract youth and integrate present issues into their programs, those in power discourage these efforts and distract with a debate on whether it is halal or haram. As an American-Muslim, I strongly believe in taking action. I recognize that through education people can grow tolerant and accepting of the different people around them. However, closed minded bigots will always exist; therefore, learning how to protect yourself is a necessary step.
Muslims are so quick to pass judgment on one-another and are always ready to tear each other down. Whether it’s a jab at a Muslim girls’ dress, how she wraps her hijab, or even the glares she receives when walking into the men’s section, there are abundant reasons why we can’t seem to keep our mosques full. We don’t have enough empowering programs, everything is segregated, and God forbid if you even make eye contact with a Muslim brother.
So a friendly message to the current uncles and aunties who seize seats of power, I implore you to see the light and the error of your ways. The cultural idea that the “grown up is always right”, really has no presence at the masjid, and will lead to the further alienation of the Muslim youth. It’s time the youth rally together, harness their inner progressiveness and take over.
Disclaimer: There will be another self-defense class, however the location has yet to be determined.