School bullying has been an unforgiving
curse since the first time students were put in a school environment. Mistreatment
of minority students, mental, emotional or even physical, has been the fate of
countless students. The latest ethnic community to suffer from this phenomenon
has been the Arab and Muslim community.
The NJ Chapter of American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee will host an
important presentation on April 28, 2011, to address the rise of bullying
against young Muslim Americans, which have increased in frequency. Many young
people in schools are facing emotional and physical abused being called
“terrorists” or told “to go home” on a daily basis. When hate speech is not
taken seriously, it has the potential to turn violent.
The recent news that an 8-year-old
boy was found hanging from a bathroom hook at his school in Louisville, KY, has
shocked a whole community and school officials. The son of Somali immigrant
parents, the boy was found unconscious and hospitalized with serious injuries,
yet it took three weeks for his story to reach national headlines. The sad
truth was that the boy had been experiencing chronic bullying, which was not
addressed by the school.
In New Jersey, I have heard of
several cases where Arab and Muslim children have been the constant victims of harassment
by fellow students. Accusations of being a terrorist, a foreigner and un
American top the list of slurs thrown at helpless children. Add to this onslaught
the endless attacks on Islam and the gravity of the problem become apparent.
The fact is that most school Administers attempt to treat complaints on an individual
basis. Yet they fail to recognize the widespread nature of the epidemic. It is
our belief that the NJ Department of education begin to address this matter at the
highest level and provide appropriate remedial solutions.
The reality is that when
irresponsible public officials and political pundits engage in hate speech it
has real consequences on the ground. The rhetoric about the Muslim American
community on talk radio, national news outlets and in many communities has
become poisonous in nature.
Bullying of Muslim Americans is not
limited to classrooms and playgrounds. Anti-Muslim sentiment has reared its
ugly head over and over again. Consider the recent burning of a Quran by the
fringe Pastor Terry Jones, the nationwide spike in anti-mosque sentiment, the
recent wave of anti-Sharia bills in more than a dozen states across the
country, a Villa Park, CA, councilwoman’s call for violence against Muslim
Americans and a recent case where a Muslim woman was refused service as a
mattress store because the store manager considered her a national security
threat. Perhaps, New York Congressman Peter King (R-NY) takes the lead amongst politicians
who have made a business out of vilifying Muslims, questioning their loyalty
and doubting their patriotism. The incremental impact of all these deliberate
measures at castigating an entire community eventually seeps into mainstream
discourse, the school environment being a ripe soil for such inhuman acts. Left
unchecked, bullying of young children may lead some of them into violent acts
beyond the school playground.
Young people are the most vulnerable
part of our society, and we must do whatever is needed to ensure that they feel
safe and secure in our country’s schools. Bullying is not only a problem for
young Muslim Americans; it affects millions of children who might be seen as
different in the sight of peers and school communities.
In March, President Barack Obama
held a conference on bullying to challenge the belief that bullying is a normal
rite of passage for youth. He stressed that the federal government, educators,
school administrators and communities all have to work together to put an end
to bullying. www.Stopbullying.gov also was launched in order to provide
resources for educators and communities on how to address bullying and keep our
The Department of Education’s Office
of Civil Rights has a section for parents on how to file a complaint if their
children are being harassed based on race, color, national origin, sex,
disability and age in violation of federal laws. It is vital to document and
report bullying incidents within six months. Bullying happens when peers,
administrators and parents ignore the signs. Parents must ensure that this
epidemic is weeded out of the dark shadows of school hallways and brought to
light so that it may be addressed
It is the responsibility of faith
leaders, parents, educators, government and the community to work together in
order to create platforms where there can be education to promote mutual
acceptance and understanding.
To this end, we welcome the ADCNJ-sponsored
lecture and we invite all to attend.