(CNN)Shaymaa Ismaa'eel was attending a conference of the Islamic Circle of North America in Washington DC on Sunday when she saw a group of protesters holding signs against the Muslim faith and the Prophet Muhammad.
This photo went viral when a woman 'smiled in the face of bigotry'
So she asked her friend to take a picture of her while she flashed a smile squatting in front of them.
"I really wanted to combat their hatred with kindness honestly," Ismaa'eel, 24, told CNN via Instagram. "I wanted them to see my face and simply walking by wasn't enough."
Ismaa'eel, who works as a therapist with children on the autism spectrum in the DC area, posted the photo on Instagram along with a quote from Prophet Muhammad reading: "Kindness is a mark of faith. Those who aren't kind have no faith."
The picture went viral on the picture-sharing platform, with more than 100,000 likes, and on Twitter, where it was liked more than 150,000 times.
"On April 21st I smiled in the face of bigotry and walked away feeling the greatest form of accomplishment," she wrote on a tweet accompanying the picture.
Ismaa'eel told CNN she noticed the protesters for the first time on Saturday, the second day of the convention, adding that most people were very upset by their presence and didn't appear to know how to react. She said that some teens tried to approach the men, but most people just walked by without giving them attention.
For her part, Ismaa'eel said she kept thinking about the protesters during the conference, which included sessions on different topics including the Quran, the life of Muhammad, lessons from the Christchurch shooting, and so on.