Despite the lack of documented instances of threats or attacks to Muslim women or children in the area, the Islamic Center of Tennessee held a self-defense class last week that drew close to 40 women of all ages.

The Center is in Antioch, two hours northeast of Chattanooga, the site of last summer’s terror attack at two military installations when 24-year-old engineering student Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez, a naturalized U.S. citizen who was born in Kuwait, opened fire on Marines at a recruitment center then led police on a six-mile chase to a U.S. Naval Reserves center.

The mass shooting killed five servicemen, and left another gravely wounded; a local police officer was also injured during the attack.

Following the massacre at the San Bernardino, California office Christmas party by the married Muslim couple, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Rizwan Farook, and the coordinated series of attacks in Paris in 2015, Muslim women in the Antioch community said they had become concerned they would become targets because they wore the traditional burqa proclaiming their Islamic faith.

How to counter a “scarf grab” was one of techniques learned in class.

“Once the climate became what it is, we felt that it was really pressing and a necessity to have this,” organizer Aisha Lbhalla explained, however she did not elaborate on what that “climate” was.

Lbhalla added, “Women have enough violence against them. We are traditionally victims of sexual and physical violence, but now we have this added component of violence rooted in anti-Islamic bigotry.”

The perception of widespread anti-Islamic, or Islamophobic, feeling throughout the United States and Europe is a frequent theme among those who seek to expand Muslim migration without sufficient vetting to screen for extremists.

Sameerah El-Siraaj attended the class together with her 8-year-old daughter, who she claims was a victim of bullying at her school.

“I know she’s going to walk out of here and feel a little more equipped to deal with what she has to on a daily basis anyways,” said El-Siraaj.

Lbhalla told reporters that the class was so successful that they will hold more in the future.

 

 

 

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