Meet the woman teaching self-defense to Muslim women in NYC

Katie Mather
·2 min read

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Malikah is a global grassroots organization and network that aims to train women in power. The movement offers classes for things like self-defense, financial literacy and healing.

Founder Rana Abdelhamid had grown up listening to horror stories from her older female relatives but experienced her first hate crime firsthand when she was only 15 years old.

When Abdelhamid founded Malikah, she drew from her experience of growing up with an immigrant family that understood the power and importance of community.

“I really wanted to understand what happened to me and be able to talk about what happened to me to people who would understand,” Abdelhamid told In The Know about the beginning of Malikah.

Malikah started out as a self-defense class Abdelhamid taught at her local mosque. Soon, thousands of women across the globe were interested in the message Abdelhamid was spreading through Malikah.

“‘Malikah’ means queen, it means power, it means beauty,” Abdelhamid explained. “And our vision has to do with transforming the way women see their own power.”

Abdelhamid’s message expands to every woman in New York City. Her ideal goal is to have every young woman in high school take a class and recognize her own power.

“I feel so lucky and privileged when they do a technique and they light up and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, it worked!'” Abdelhamid said about her students. “The Aha! moment when women realize the power of their body and realize that they actually can defend themselves — it’s really powerful.”

Abdelhamid knows that with these women recognizing their power, change is inevitable.

“What would the world look like if all women were safe? If all women were powerful?” she asked. “I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”

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