Linda “iLham” Barto
As a US military veteran who served on behalf of ALL Americans, I am distressed at the amount of hate Americans have for other Americans because of race, religion, country of origin, political party, etc. I was raised in a church where Ku Klux Klan members served as deacons, so I know what hate speech sounds like. The hate rhetoric I hear today, however, is worse than anything I heard in the 50’s and 60’s. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, hate crimes rose by 20% in 2016. The FBI reports a 67% increase in hate crimes against Muslims within that same period. These dangerous times dictate a need for people to be able to defend themselves. An important Islamic ideal is for every Muslim to keep him- or herself in good physical condition in case of the need for defense of self or others. Practice good nutrition, engage in some sort of exercise, and live a healthy lifestyle.
If someone is verbally abusive to you, try to deescalate the situation by speaking calmly and politely. Do not lose your temper or engage in an argument. Tell him (and by ‘him’, I mean ‘him or her’) that you do not support terrorism or extremism and offer to tell him about YOUR Islam. If he insults our Prophet (peace upon him), tell him that there are a lot of lies about Prophet Muhammed (peace upon him) and that you would like the chance to tell the truth about him. Some people will shut you down by claiming the Qur’an says that you may lie about anything to cover the awful truth. All you can do is say that that’s not true, and say, “I’m sorry that you have that burden of hate and bigotry to carry around, but I don’t hate you.”
Do not engage in a physical confrontation unless you are assaulted. Someone trying to pull off a hijab or kufi is not a good reason to use a self-defense technique. That would only escalate the problem and put you in more danger. If he tries to choke you with the hijab, however, then you need to act. Use fighting techniques only if you are threatened. Some self-defense techniques may result in serious injury or even death, and you cannot ethically or legally use such force unless you fear bodily harm for yourself or someone else.
As a third-degree black belt martial arts instructor, I can offer a few strategies for fighting. If you are attacked, focus on pressure points, which are sensitive parts of the body that cannot be strengthened by exercise. Two pressure points are the eyes. You can jab or gouge the eyes with your fingers or an instrument. If you have fingernails, begin just above the eyebrows and claw down across the eyes or eyelids. Your objective is, not only to injure, but to get blood in the attacker’s eyes to temporarily blind him. (If you do any clawing, do not wash your hands until after the police collect evidence.)
You can box the ears with your fists, and if he doesn’t let go of you, curve your fingers around the ears and rip them off.
The nose is a pressure point. Use a palm heel thrust (the heel of the hand used as a striking force), a hammer fist (the side of the fist being the striking force), or an object, like a rock, to bash the nose.
The hollow of the throat can be jabbed with knuckles or with an object, like a stick or car key.
The solar plexus (the tender spot in the center of the torso, beneath the lungs) can be punched, kicked, or jabbed with an object.
To the groin, thrust a top-of-the-foot front kick as hard as you can. If you are already too close for that, impact with the top of your shin. If you are closer still, bash the groin with your knee. When you impact the groin, he will likely bend over, exposing another pressure point –the base of the skull. Hit this with a hammer fist or an object like a rock.
At the inner thigh is a bundle of nerves. Kick this area hard. The knees and tops of the feet are also pressure points that can be kicked hard.
These are just a few fighting tips, but I encourage everyone to take a class in self-defense and practice how to react to specific assaults.
To keep yourself safer, try to avoid being alone in parking lots or on the streets. Always look around and make yourself aware of what is going on around you. Do not be looking at your phone or other distraction. If you see a stranger, look him straight in the face and say hello. This will let him know that you see him and you can identify him. Also, by saying hello, you personalize yourself to him. This will make you less likely to be a victim. (A woman should not be too friendly in her hello, however, because it doesn’t take much for some men to think a woman is flirting.)
We are living in difficult times, but we share this struggle with the prophets (peace upon them) who faced much worse situations. May Allah give us courage and strength and make us successful.
These tips are only meant to be used in SELF-DEFENSE. Muslim American Magazine does not condone violence. Seek training in order to properly prepare yourself for the situations discussed in this article. Do not try this at home.