Anti-Muslim Bullying on the Rise in US Schools
WAYNE – With the rise of anti-Islam sentiments in the United States, community and civil rights leaders complained about growing violence by bullies against Arab, Muslim and South Asian students, North Jersey news portal reported on Friday, April 29.
“When public officials and media commentators propagate these ideas, it gets into the main discourse,” Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, a think tank on Arab and Muslim affairs, told a forum about school bullying.
“And schools are a ripe environment for these feelings.”
The forum, sponsored by the New Jersey chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, saw participants sharing reports of name-calling, intimidation and physical violence in schools.
Shehnaz Abdeljaber said that her son came home one day with his yearbook plastered with notes from classmates and a teacher about blowing things up and bombs.
“He put his head down and said, ‘I know, I know.’,” said Abdeljaber who declined to name her son or hometown to protect him from further bullying.
“It was like he was telling me what had been going on all this time.”
Contacting her son’s middle school where the incident took place, the mother said she was surprised to find the teacher only putting a letter into her file about the incident.
The situation in the high school was different when her son was ridiculed by another student, she said.
The administration of the school invited her talk to the school’s faculty in her capacity as an outreach coordinator for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to from 7-8 million Muslims.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the United States, many Muslims have complained of facing discrimination and stereotypes in the society because of their Islamic attires or identities.
A US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
More Than Laws
While hopeful about New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law; the toughest in the country, community leaders said the law alone will not be enough, urging more efforts from educators to take the phenomenon seriously.
“We need to find ways to engage public officials and educators,” Assaf said.
“It’s not enough to have laws.”
Philip Freeman, assistant director at the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, said that families also should bear some blame for underreporting bullying incidents.
Yet, despite all these efforts, some activists till believe that most of the problem lies in the growing anti-Islam hostility.
Among the reasons behind the rise of bullying against Arab and Muslim students is the vilification of their communities, the activists said.
Anti-Muslim frenzy has grown recently over plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York, resulting in attacks on Muslims and their property and an increase in anti-Muslim hate speech.
A Republican Senator stirred uproar earlier this month over holding a probe into what he called “radicalization” of American Muslims.
Peter King, the chairman of the US House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Committee, claims that US Muslims are being radicalized by Al-Qaeda operatives, accusing Muslim leaders of not cooperating with law enforcement authorities in fighting terrorism.
Worse still, lawmakers in at least 13 states have introduced proposals to ban Shari`ah.