Watch the video to find out the meaning behind her photos.
Video credit: USA TODAY
The world has made a lot of inroads towards acceptance of other people regardless of race, gender, political affiliations, or religious beliefs. However, it’s still human nature to hate and be suspicious of anything that’s different. And what’s even more surprising, and sad, is that not all of this bigotry can be found in third world countries but also in the middle of developed nations like the United States.
One day, Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, 24, who works as a behavioral therapist for children with autism, attended an Islamic Circle of North America convention when she came upon a group of men with protest signs camped just outside the venue.
It was an anti-Islamic protest with one of the signs reading “Islam is a religion of blood and murder! The blood from Jesus is given as a ransom for all mankind” and another with “Jesus is the only begotten son of God.”
Speaking later to the media, Shaymaa revealed that the convention’s attendees were getting uncomfortable and visibly upset at the protesters. She added that protesters also yelled at her friends who were walking by and told them they were going to hell. Shaymaa knew she had to fight this display of bigotry but she wanted to do it in her own way.
So instead of reacting in anger, Shaymaa decided to fight hatred with kindness.
She asked her friend Jamilah to take a picture of her standing in front of the protesters. Shaymaa walked up to a police officer while the protesters were yelling at her and asked if she could position herself on the curb just in front of the men. When the officer blatantly told her “no” Shaymaa felt a little rebellious.
She told one media source: “I smiled so hard in the picture and the man [started] directing his speech toward me. Silly things like ‘your face should be covered.’”
Shaymaa posted the picture to her Instagram and Twitter and the next day, she was surprised that her posts quickly went viral.
“On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment,” went Shaymaa’s Twitter caption. Comments and messages of support soon flooded her account.
In a subsequent tweet, she gushed that she wasn’t ‘expecting this AT ALL!’
“The positivity from this is very uplifting and it’s making me happy to know that the youth can see someone being unapologetic in the face of people who hate their religion,” she later said.
Shaymaa thanked everyone for the overwhelming support and also clarified that photos weren’t Photoshopped or edited at all.
Other participants who were present at the convention not only shared their experiences, some were even inspired to recreate Shaymaa’s picture. Other people called her response “bold.”
Either way, it was a heartwarming response in the face of hatred.
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