Muslim women raise their voices in unison at Women's March
WASHINGTON - They chanted. They shouted. They danced. With their bright blue hijabs, they were difficult to miss.
Dozens of Muslim women joined thousands of protesters at the Women's March in Washington on Saturday to protest against what they say are President Donald Trump's unjust policies targeting their communities as well the wider public.
Their presence was conspicuous and drew praise from fellow protesters who joined their contingent to show unity.
Blocks away from the White House, the women chanted in support of Black Lives Matter, refugees and democracy, calling on Trump to "move" and "get out the way".
"From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go," they sang together.
The chanting grew louder, angrier and more animated as the protesters passed the Trump Hotel along the route of the march.
Jinan Shbat, outreach manager at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), lauded the energy of the marchers, calling it "empowering".
"It's absolutely amazing, seeing all these people here supporting each other," she said. "This administration has been seeking to divide us for two years, and I feel like every year we just come back stronger."
Shbat said Trump's travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries remains a major worry for women in the community, many of whom are struggling to unite with their families.
"Here in the United States, on top of that, the rhetoric that the president has been spreading about Muslims has been hurting visibly Muslim women," she added.
"If our president allows the hate to continue, unfortunately, Muslims tend to be the main target."
Wafa May Elamin, a 26-year-old Sudanese American demonstrator, said she was personally affected by the ban, which made her feel unwelcome. Sudan appeared on Trump's first executive order, but was later dropped in revised versions of the ban.
Still, Elamin said she was heartened by the solidarity of the gathering.
"If I was to define 'support' it would be this - the Women’s March," she told MEE.
As the protesters gathered before the march, prominent Muslim activist Linda Sarsour urged the women to be proud of their faith and contributions to society in the United States.
"It was important to us to make sure we were here as a visible force, to make sure that people do not ignore us, do not erase us from the conversation, that no one talks about Muslims without Muslims, and to show that we are also unapologetic about our identities and that we are also part of the feminist movement in America," she told MEE.
Draped in a Palestinian keffiyeh, young activist Roudah Chaker enthusiastically shouted slogans through a megaphone. She said she was at the march to fight for the rights of Arabs, Muslims, African Americans and all marginalised people in the US.
"They all connect, because everybody is being oppressed by the same president," she told MEE between rounds of chants. "The government is oppressing all these people, and all these people need to have rights in this country."
Lorie Hershberger, a therapist from Michigan, echoed the tone of solidarity, saying she becomes emotional when she thinks about the bigotry against Muslims in the US.
"We have a lot of Muslims in our community in Michigan, and they are wonderful people," she said.
One woman marched with a sign that echoed Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib's call to "impeach the mother****er," referring to Trump. The latter part of the word, however, appeared in Russian - a nod to the ongoing investigation of possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
Trump, who regularly uses name-calling against opponents, had hit back against Tlaib, calling her comment "disgraceful".
Asked about Trump's remarks, the demonstrator answered without words, shaking her head with an incredulous look.
Nikki Lavailey, a 23-year-old marcher who works in the health-care industry, held a sign featuring new members of Congress from various ethnic backgrounds, including Ilhan Omar, a Somali American Democrat who first came to the US as a refugee.
In November, Omar and Tlaib became the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress, joining a wave of fellow women of colour who emerged victorious in last year's midterm election.
"I just think for America, this is a time when we need women to step into a place of power and make the choices for us," Lavailey said.
On Saturday, demonstrators held signs ridiculing the president, often poking fun at his dishonesty, relationship to Russia's President Vladimir Putin and his own comb-over hairdo.
Many held small unflattering effigies portraying Trump, modeled after the giant balloon that was flown over the London during the US president's visit to the UK.
The march featured a myriad of ideologies and demands ranging from denouncing Trump and condemning racism to promoting equal pay and reproductive rights for women.
On the edge of the demonstration, a few Uighur women waved the light blue flag of the autonomous region of Xinjiang, where the Chinese government has rounded up as many as one million Muslims and detains them in concentration camps.
Demonstrators from Code Pink, a women-led anti-war activist group, called for peace and the rejection of Trump's proposed border wall with Mexico.
Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink, said that opposing US foreign wars is a women's issue.
"Women are the ones who are most hurt by wars," she told MEE. "They're the ones who have to keep the families together once men go off to war ... Women are the ones who suffer when the budget goes into the military and is not there for the families' needs, like health care and a good education system."