Latinos Are Here For Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, The Muslim Woman Who Smiled For Islamophobic Protestors
If you’ve been on Twitter lately, you’ve met Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, a 24-year-old woman, whose photos of her smiling in front of homophobic islamophobic protesters went viral. In the three days since she her tweet, the post has had over 310,000 likes and 85,000 retweet–the vast majority of which are positive and supportive.
Here’s the scoop and all the ways Latinos are showing their support.
“On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment.”
That’s it. That’s the caption for her viral post and it’s inspiring people everywhere.
Shaymaa was visiting Washington D.C. for the Islamic Circle of North America (INCA)’s annual convention.
The nonprofit organization is here to build a community for Muslim-Americans. Shaymaa remembers similar anti-Islam protesters were at the convention two years ago. When she first saw them, she was shocked, and later when she wanted to take a photo in front of them, they were gone.
But it’s 2019 and the Islamophobes are out of hiding questioning if she really did the thing.
Not only did Shaymaa get the chance to take this photo at this year’s convention, but haters don’t feel she’s trustworthy enough to believe the photos are real. This is the most polite hater we could find.
This led Shaymaa to post a follow up of her original tweet.
The ensuing thread is filled with people tweeting all caps #FAKENEWS. But we’re not going to talk about the very vocal minority of haters. We are here to talk about the people showing this young woman support and love.
Shaymaa spends her day job at a school working with children on the autism spectrum.
However, on weekends, she’s giving us lewks and bravery like no other. She told Teen Vogue, “Us youth, we need to actually see people who aren’t so apologetic, who aren’t so scared. It is hard to be Muslim in this day and time.”
She also let everyone know that she has to be confident in herself because her identity is visible at all time.
“I’m an African-American woman, so I can’t be white passing,” she tells Teen Vogue, “even if I take my hijab off — I still have struggles. You have to know your strength. A lot of youth need to understand that and just think about that a little bit.”
Latino Twitter came out strong for her story.
According to a 2007 report from Voice of America, the Latino-Muslim community is between 40,000 and 200,000 in the U.S. alone. Being Latino means being diverse and intersectional because we have an intersection of all faiths, all skin tones, and all genders in our community, and we get to stand with each other, for each other.
Folks are calling her an American hero.
Shaymaa told Teen Vogue that she knew “talking to someone like that is talking to a brick wall. You kind of can’t really do anything to combat it.”
It was also Easter Sunday the day the protesters arrived, which just adds layers to this story.
“We were wrapping up the second day of the convention and the first thing I saw was there they are,” Shaymaa tells Teen Vogue. “I showed my friend and she was like, ‘It’s Sunday. It’s Easter. Don’t they have something better to do?’ I was like, ‘Clearly, they need something from us.’”
“Kindness is a mark of faith. Those who aren’t kind have no faith.”
She posted the same photo on Instagram with the above caption, and that also went viral. She has over 377,000 likes on the Instagram post proving that people want to see more love in this world.
“They were like, ‘Oh, yeah, you need to cover your face, too.’”
As she was walking away from taking the photo, she tells Teen Vogue that the protesters started to make fun of her. “And then someone was like, ‘You know it’s a cult when everyone’s walking around in pajamas.’ I was like, ‘Hmm, is he saying that because I’m wearing loose pants?’ I love sarcasm, so I was like, ‘Thank you for that.’”
The tables have turned because The Internet is now making fun of the protesters.
“I did not know that JC Penney sells draperies in denim,” writes one user. 😂Several people started posting timed selfies of them mimicking that same posture.
Other folks thought he looked familiar.
Some were saying he’s a Westboro Baptist Church protester. Others thought he looked like their sleep paralysis demon.
Is sleep paralysis contagious?
Have you ever noticed that the people who hold those specific protest signs always look the same? Is it just one group that travels around the country protesting? Or do all Christian protest extremist look the same?
Lizy Rodriguez was over here revving up the inner mami in her.
I mean… if rejoicing in Jesus’ resurrection looks like you making fun of a black woman in a hijab then you might be practicing a different religion than you think. Preach, Lizy.
Then there’s the obvious solution to this kind of bigotry.
Most Churches, Mosques, and Temples often work together to create multi-faith events. Islamophobia, like anti-Semitism, works off an assumption that an entire religion is a threat. That’s fake news.
Just like radical Islam makes a mockery out of the faith, this version of radical Christianity does the same.
So like, do they see how they’re doing the exact same thing that they’re protesting against? 🤔
Islamophobia is a serious threat to our Muslim-American brothers and sisters.
Hate crimes have escalated since Trump ran his campaign and enacted his Muslim Ban. Many Twitter user were scared for her–to simply be an African American woman in a hijab smiling.
“I wanted them to see the smile on my face, and see how happy I was to be me and walk around being a Muslim woman.”
Ultimately, Shaymaa’s message shines brighter than any blemish of bigotry. She told The Guardian, “I wanted to show them that we are going to remain kind and unapologetic, and continue to spread love in the face of bigotry.”
And for all her positivity and freedom to just be, we thank you, Shaymaa.
So many of us can relate to kissing our loved out in front of homophobic protesters, smiling your brown face at the MAGA hat guy and overall just doing as our mama taught us by “killing with kindness”. Shaymaa, you are a shining, beautiful example of what it means to be American. Gracias.