‘You just want to be prepared’: Why some Muslim Canadian women are taking up self-defence

‘You just want to be prepared’: Why some Muslim Canadian women are taking up self-defence

Lined with farmland and few street lights, the road that leads to a local mosque in Oakville, Ont., is rather quiet.But inside, there’s plenty going

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Lined with farmland and few street lights, the road that leads to a local mosque in Oakville, Ont., is rather quiet.But inside, there’s plenty going on.It’s a Wednesday night, and the mosque is filled with young children. Some are chasing each other around the prayer room’s striped carpet; others are tucked in a corner sharing stories with their friends.It’s the mosque Jaseena DaCosta frequently visits. But for the past few weeks, since the New Zealand mosque attacks, she’s had some unwelcome thoughts.“If this were to happen to us, and we’re in a very rural area here, how would this class react?”“Would we be able to do anything about it to change the situation and have a better result out of it? It hits all of us,” she told Global News, motioning to the class happening just behind her.It’s a martial arts and self-defence class taught by Toronto-based organization UMMA Martial Arts.

Jaseena DaCosta demonstrates a self-defence move.

Jaseena DaCosta demonstrates a self-defence move.Maham Abedi/Global NewsThe 19-year-old hijab-wearing Muslim woman both teaches and takes the classes.The children are lined up across the room dressed in martial arts robes. They’re told to warm up.Their instructor walks between the rows. He tells one boy to fix his form while doing a plank then looks at another, saying he’s “super cheating” on his pushups.

Children take a self-defence class at a local mosque.

Children take a self-defence class at a local mosque.Maham Abedi/Global News
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Like many of the other students, DeCosta she says she began taking the classes mainly as a means of physical activity. But now, Islamophobic attacks reported in the news give her an added motivation.“It’s constantly getting to me now. I don’t know if I’m safe sometimes. That’s why I’m so happy because this class has taught me to be prepared for anything,” she said.The anxiety DeCosta and other Muslims feel is backed up by statistics that show reports of Islamophobic attacks rise whenever Muslims are in the news — even if they are victims of a crime.WATCH: Where does hate stand in Canada?

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