A young Muslim woman saw a group of Islamophobic protesters and responded with a protest of her own: happiness.
Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, 24, has gone viral after she shared a post of herself posing proudly while wearing a grin and her hijab in front of a group of anti-Muslim protesters in Washington, D.C.
“On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment,” she wrote on Twitter.
In the image, Ismaa’eel squats in front of the group, who are holding signs, American flags and megaphones. She’s flashing a smile and a peace sign in the shot, which she also shared to Instagram.
“Kindness is a mark of faith. Those who aren’t kind have no faith” -Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him),” she captioned her post on the photo sharing platform.
The photo was taken Monday outside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which held the organization Islamic Circle of North America’s annual convention this weekend.
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Ismaa’eel said her intention with the photo was to show off her pride in being a Muslim woman in the face of hate.
“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,” 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.”
She initially passed the group on Saturday and did not stop in front of them, but changed her mind after attending the conference and hearing about topics like the Quran and the mosque shootings in New Zealand.
“My face lit up when I saw them again because I wanted them to see my joy,” she said, adding that she asked her friend to snap the picture. “I just wish they could hear all the love being spread inside the conference instead of protesting outside.”
Isamaa’eel told BuzzFeed News that she was harassed with hate speech like, “Your face should be covered!” as she posed, but that she brushed it off – and even found it funny.
“Homeboy was like, ‘You know it’s a cult when you’re walking around wearing pajamas’ Had me rolling!!” she wrote on Instagram, with three crying laughing emojis.
The photo currently has more than 200,000 likes on Twitter, and has inspired dozens of messages of support.
“Future history books gone saucy,” one user wrote. “Look. At. This. Photo.”