American Muslim Teens Speak Out Against School Violence

This opinion appeared at the ING blog.

These days, story after story emerges of violence occurring in schools. Whether it’s the result of guns or a few students throwing punches, our schools are not the safe places we would like them to be. Our INGYouth Speakers are a group of Muslim teens across the country trying to live out a vision of safe, inclusive learning environments by actively countering Islamophobia and other forms of bigotry in their schools and communities. Inspired by the example set by students from Parkland, Florida, they felt the need to comment on the current situation. Please see their statement below: 

We are middle, high school, and college students who work to challenge Islamophobia and all forms of bigotry in our communities through the INGYouth Program. As young American Muslims, we would like to extend our condolences to the high school communities around the country who have been affected by senseless school violence. This includes Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, as well as Great Mills High School in Lexington Park, Maryland.

From the time we are young, we are told that there are many places where we’ll be kept safe from any potential harm. One of these places is school. Unfortunately, for the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month and Great Mills High School this week, their safe places ended up being battlegrounds.

While the motives behind the Great Mills High School shooting are unclear, we know all too well the case of the shooter from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Like many other students, he was someone who struggled with his mental health, was socially isolated, and desperately needed help and attention, which he sadly did not receive. Those circumstances are bad enough, but when combined with easy access to numerous powerful firearms, our society is left to deal with the tragic consequences.

As many survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting are using their voices to create safer school environments, we must follow their example and do the same. We need to speak with our elected officials and tell them that this has gone on for far too long. But, we can’t wait for the government to take action. Even when they do decide to act, it will take time for the effects to extend to all places. This is why we must commit to discuss bullying and gun violence within our own schools, from classroom debates to school board meetings.

We believe that these attacks on high schools could be prevented. Doing so will require addressing complex and uncomfortable issues. We need to remain committed to ending social isolation when we see it. We need to confront bullying when we are the targets, oppressors, or those caught in between. We need to make sure that our voices are heard from coast to coast to display the message that these tragic acts of violence cannot and will not become a “normal” part of growing up as American youth.

This is why we will be joining students across the country in participating in the March for Our Lives on March 24th, 2018. We urge you to join us.

About INGYouth
Aiming to prevent teasing and bullying, the INGYouth Program empowers teen American Muslims with the resources, skills, and confidence to counter misconceptions about their identities through peer-to-peer education and dialogue. These American Muslims are leaders in their communities educating and advocating for the safety of all students.