A young Muslim woman said she “smiled in the face of bigotry” after posing for a photo in front of a group of anti-Muslim protesters in Washington, D.C. on Sunday.
Shaymaa Ismaa’eel was in town to attend a conference of the Islamic Circle of North America when she came across some protesters holding Islamophobic signs.
“I really wanted to combat their hatred with kindness, honestly,” the 24-year-old told CNN. “I wanted them to see my face and simply walking by wasn’t enough.”
That’s when Ismaa’eel asked her friend to snap a photo of her posing in front of the group.
“On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment,” she tweeted along with a series of photos.
The images show a smiling Ismaa’eel crouched down and flashing the peace sign while some of the protesters looked on in the background.
“My face honestly lit up when I saw them,” the woman said. “I walked up as they continued yelling their hateful speech. I asked the police officer if I could stand at the curb in front of the men. The officer said ‘no,’ and in that moment, I felt like the biggest rebel.”
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Ismaa’eel explained to CNN that some of the protesters began to direct their hate speech towards her.
“I smiled so hard in the picture and the man started directing his speech toward me. Silly things like ‘Your face should be covered,’ and ‘You know it’s a cult when you’re walking outside wearing pajamas.'”
Ismaa’eel also shared an image on Instagram, where, as of Wednesday, the photo has been liked over 157,000 times.
“Kindness is a mark of faith. Those who aren’t kind have no faith.” -Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him)” she wrote.
Ismaa’eel said she was surprised to see her photo being liked and shared across social media saying it was “refreshing to see so many people” being supportive. However, Ismaa’eel’s mother got wind of the photo and urged her to be careful.
“She’s definitely nervous because it’s clear people like that typically aren’t the kindest,” Ismaa’eel said of her mother. “She’s constantly reminding me to pray over myself.”