By Aisha Muqit
America today is faced with many conflicts, both internal and external. One conflict currently making headlines is the destructive presence of Islamophobia and the popularity of Islamophobes. Islamophobia has become entrenched in the fabric of America and to some extent institutionalized. The unfortunate increase in occurrences of school bullying faced by Muslim children is just one manifestation of this. Such bullying happens not only from student to student, but teacher to student and even, in some cases, school to student.
Often overlooked, school bullying is a harsh reality of a child’s life. The harshness escalates when a child’s school environment is full of negativity towards that child’s race, ethnicity, and/or religion. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) researched the relationship between Islam and school bullying in California, the results of which they produced in a report titled “Mislabeled: The Impact of School Bullying and Discrimination on California Muslim Students”. In this report CAIR found that, “Ultimately, 55% of the American Muslim students surveyed reported being subjected to some form of bullying based on their religious identity. This is twice as high as the national statistic of students reporting being bullied at school. Many students experienced multiple types of bullying; however, the most common type of bullying American Muslim students faced was verbal at 52%”.
In another study conducted by the Institute for Social Policy and Understandingly (ISPU), it was found that of all the bullying that is done, Muslims are the most likely targets. According to an interview with NPR, the study done by ISPU, “…looked at the prevalence of bullying in American schools, conducting nearly 2,400 interviews of parents across the U.S. in January. The poll found that 42 percent of Muslim parents say their kids have been bullied due to their religion, whether through insults or physical assaults, at least once in the past year. About 23 percent of Jewish parents, 20 percent of Protestant parents, and 6 percent of Catholic parents reported that their kids were bullied at least once in the past year.”
Countering the Biases
These statistics show that school bullying is a serious problem, and that we must act to change things. When former President Obama visited a Mosque, he made a clear statement to America, “We have to reaffirm that most fundamental of truths: We are all God’s children, all born equal with inherent dignity,” explained President Obama, who added that, “…as Americans, we have to stay true to our core values, that includes freedom of religion—for all faiths.”
Unfortunately, this call for fair and just treatment of Americans by other Americans, seems to have all but disappeared from mainstream media and fizzled to a whisper a mere two years later. As the tide of Islamophobia rises, so too does the likelihood of Muslim youth becoming victims of school bullying. But according to the same NPR article, all hope is not lost; they reported that, “…Despite these troubling trends, many activists and educators remain hopeful.”
“While the number of hate crimes has been on the rise, the support from other communities has been tenfold,” said Faiyaz Jaffer, a chaplain at New York University’s Islamic Center. Following the election, a Muslim student prayer room was vandalized with pro-Trump graffiti, but by the end of the week, students organized a rally against hate.
Resources: Institute for Social Policy and Understanding –
vox.com, npr.org, and thenation.com