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Executive Summary to Bullying Prevention Guide
Dear Parents, Teachers, School Administrators, and Community Members:
As Muslim parents and social activists working to create a better society and world for our children, we created this Bullying Prevention Guide as a tool for parents, teachers, school administrators, and community members in the hope that it will help prevent the bullying of students in public and private schools, including fulltime and weekend Islamic schools.
While the problem of bullying is prevalent among all students, and Muslim and Arab students have long been subjects of teasing and harassment, since 9/11 this problem has increased dramatically. As we describe in our training for educators, Muslim students often experience taunting by fellow students with common slurs such as “terrorist“and “camel jockey.” Girls wearing the headscarf (hijab) are often subjected to ongoing harassment, called names like “rag” or “towel head,” and even have their scarves pulled off. In one egregious case, a Muslim high school student in Staten Island was subjected to a harrowing ordeal in which he was frequently labeled a “terrorist,” punched in the groin, and spat on by fellow teenagers. He was beaten so severely that he later suffered from headaches and memory loss.
In March 2010, Muslim Mothers Against Violence (MMAV) surveyed 78 Muslim youth between the ages of 12 and 17 in Northern Virginia about their experiences in school. Eighty percent of the youth responded that they had been subjected to bigoted taunts and harassment, with three-quarters indicating the epithets had occurred more than once. Fifty percent reported being called names in front of teachers and school administrators. This mirrors similar numbers cited in a March, 2011, article in the San Francisco Chronicle about a local imam who asked 100 Muslim Boy Scouts how many of them had been called a terrorist, even in jest. Eighty hands went up. Many said the harassment regularly stressed them out, while twenty said they had trouble sleeping at night.
More recently in 2013, a study by the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) in California found that 50% of Muslim students surveyed reported verbal and social bullying because of their religion, 21% reported cyberbullying, and 17% of female respondents have had their hijab tugged or offensively touched.
At Islamic Networks Group (ING), the goal of preventing the prejudice that leads to discrimination and bullying underlies all our education and interreligious engagement work. Since 9/11, working with the US Department of Education and regional school districts, we have reached out to teachers and school principals to call their attention to the issue of bullying, particularly following an event or overseas conflict. ING’s seminars for teachers and administrators, titled “Understanding Muslim Students: Fostering an Inclusive Environment,” specifically address this issue in depth while providing a better understanding of Muslim students and appropriate resources for teaching about Islam and Muslims.
After the second Gulf War in 2003 we conducted sessions in mosques throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to talk to Muslim youth about their experiences with bullying and harassment at school, offering tools for prevention and response. ING has partnered with the Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) to conduct anti-bullying workshops at conventions and camps through its youth program. Most recently, ING launched a program for middle and high school youth called INGYouth, which aims to empower Muslim youth by increasing their religious literacy and confidence and providing them with tools for prevention. ING’s affiliates across the country, which are listed at the end of this document, have also been active in addressing this problem.
At ING, we believe that bullying is a preventable problem, especially when young people and their parents are well-informed and empowered. Ultimately, the goal of ING’s educational work is to create safe and respectful environments that are welcoming to students of all faiths and backgrounds.
Shakila Ahmad | Co-founder, Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati‘s Muslim Mothers Against Violence (MMAV)
Ameena Jandali | Content Director, Islamic Networks Group (ING)
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