This is Shaymaa Ismaa’eel, 24, a behavioral therapist for children with autism from the DC area.
Ismaa’eel told BuzzFeed News she went to the Islamic Circle of North America convention on Saturday and said the first thing she saw there was a group of men with signs protesting outside.
She said: "Most people were very upset and didn't know how to embrace their presence. Some teens were getting upset, trying to approach the men."
Ismaa’eel said she wanted to combat their hatred with kindness. So on day three of the convention she asked her friend Jamilah to take a photo of her.
She said: "I wanted them to see my face and walking by wasn’t enough. We were busy Saturday and they had left by the time things at the convention slowed down."
"I kept thinking about them during the workshops," she said. "'What if we had a loud speaker so they can hear the beautiful things we’re learning about our beloved prophet?!' I kept thinking to myself."
She said she did some shopping, left the main building, and then saw them again.
Ismaa'eel said: "My face honestly lit up when I had seen. I yelled to my friend Jamilah, 'There they are! Can you take a picture?'
"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.
"I smiled so hard in the picture and the man [started] directing his speech toward me. Silly things like 'your face should be covered.'"
Despite what happened, Ismaa'eel said she had a great time at the convention. She said: "Overall, this didn’t ruin the experience for me in the slightest."
Her photo got over 50,000 likes on Instagram and has since been reshared to Twitter, where people have said her photo is historic.
Ismaa'eel said: "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 added: "Everyone is proud of me honestly while praying for my safety."
Ikran is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Ikran Dahir at email@example.com.
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