This Muslim woman confronted anti-Islamic protesters "with love and a smile."

When you're faced with someone spewing hatred toward you, it can be hard to keep calm—much less smile and wave.

Shaymaa Ismaa'eel was attending a 3-day convention for Muslims in Washington, D.C. when she came upon a group of anti-Islamic protesters.

Holding signs with statements like "Islam is a religion of blood & murder" and an inexplicable picture of a man dressed in drag with "If Muhammad were alive today" on it, the bigoted protesters were making a clear statement of hatred. Ismaa'eel told BBC Newsbeat that they used loudspeakers to deliver anti-Islamic messages.


"They had posters with things like, 'Islam is a hateful religion' and were saying we were inside 'listening to hate'," she told Newsbeat.

"I'm the sort of person who finds this stuff funny," she added. "So I was cracking up laughing. I was thinking, 'If only I had a loudspeaker so they could hear what we were doing inside'."

Inside the 44th annual Muslim American Society and the Islamic Circle of North America (MAS-ICNA) convention, thousands of participants were discussing community service and how to be better Muslims. (In other words, not to hate.)

Ismaa'eel decided to bring light and joy to the darkness these protesters were trying to push.

"There's a saying from our Prophet saying, 'Smile is charity' and that's just me personally anyway always smiling," Ismaa'eel said. So she decided to bring that charity to the protesters.

"I asked my friend to take a picture. I wanted them to see me smile and see the love. I wanted to combat their hatred with love and a smile."

"As you can see in the picture they seem annoyed but they didn't really respond that much," she added. "Just a quick scoff and they started saying, 'You should cover your face' and 'You can tell it's a cult when the followers are wearing pajamas'."

Ismaa'eel didn't let their negativity deter her, however. She shared her photos on Twitter with the comment, "On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment."

Ismaa'eel's post has resonated with people and she's received countless messages of support.

The 24-year-old's tweet has more than 300,000 likes and more than 80,000 retweets. While she appreciates people's messages of support, she said she hasn't experienced many incidences of anti-Islamic hate and is hopeful that they are decreasing.

"I think people are way more accepting," she told Newsbeat. "You see more people like me, wearing hijabs. Fashion magazines with Muslim women. You didn't see that when I was younger."

Ismaa'eel didn't expect her post to go viral, but she's glad that it has resonated with people.

"I'm all about being unapologetic about who you are," Ismaa'eel said. "Don't let anyone dim your light."

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When Molly Reeser was a student at Michigan State University, she took a job mucking horse stalls to help pay for classes. While she was there, she met a 10-year-old girl named Casey, who was being treated for cancer, and — because both were animal lovers — they became fast friends.

Two years later, Casey died of cancer.

"Everyone at the barn wanted to do something to honor her memory," Molly remembers. A lot of suggestions were thrown out, but Molly knew that there was a bigger, more enduring way to do it.

"I saw firsthand how horses helped Casey and her family escape from the difficult and terrifying times they were enduring. I knew that there must be other families who could benefit from horses in the way she and her family had."

Molly approached the barn owners and asked if they would be open to letting her hold a one-day event. She wanted to bring pediatric cancer patients to the farm, where they could enjoy the horses and peaceful setting. They agreed, and with the help of her closest friends and the "emergency" credit card her parents had given her, Molly created her first Camp Casey. She worked with the local hospital where Casey had been a patient and invited 20 patients, their siblings and their parents.

The event was a huge success — and it was originally meant to be just that: a one-day thing. But, Molly says, "I believe Casey had other plans."

One week after the event, Molly received a letter from a five-year-old boy who had brain cancer. He had been at Camp Casey and said it was "the best day of his life."

"[After that], I knew that we had to pull it off again," Molly says. And they did. Every month for the next few years, they threw a Camp Casey. And when Molly graduated, she did the most terrifying thing she had ever done and told her parents that she would be waitressing for a year to see if it might be possible to turn Camp Casey into an actual nonprofit organization. That year of waitressing turned into six, but in the end she was able to pull it off: by 2010, Camp Casey became a non-profit with a paid staff.

"I am grateful for all the ways I've experienced good luck in my life and, therefore, I believe I have a responsibility to give back. It brings me tremendous joy to see people, animals, or things coming together to create goodness in a world that can often be filled with hardships."

Camp Casey serves 1500 children under the age of 18 each year in Michigan. "The organization looks different than when it started," Molly says. "We now operate four cost-free programs that bring accessible horseback riding and recreational services to children with cancer, sickle cell disease, and other life-threatening illnesses."

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