55% of Calif. Muslim Students Bullied: Study

A US Muslim civil rights groups has warned that more than 55 percent of American Muslim students are facing bullying and discrimination in California schools, via administrators, teachers, textbooks and peers.

“Many students struggle with poor performance and internalize their feelings,” said Fatima Dadabhoy, a senior civil rights attorney at the Council on American-Islamic Relation (CAIR) was quoted by Orange County Register.

“It’s a struggle trying to balance their American side while still respecting their religion.”

The study titled, “Mislabeled: The Impact of School Bullying and Discrimination on California Muslim Students”, was released on Friday, October 30, by CAIR California’s chapter.

It details the results of a 621-student survey in which 55 percent said they have experienced religion-based bullying.

The bullying, officials for CAIR said at their Anaheim office in a Friday press conference, often affects the ability of students to learn and feel comfortable in school.

Much of the report reflects the negative perceptions and forms of discrimination many in the Muslim community have faced since 9/11.

These problems include peers calling Muslim students names and accusing them of being terrorists, students grabbing the hijab, a headscarf worn by many Muslim women, and teachers saying Muslim students don’t understand something because they aren’t American.

Researchers explained that more male Muslim students than female Muslim students report experiencing Islamophobia, yet more girls report being discriminated by a teacher or administrator at school.

“We had teachers who would see bullying and ignore it, or join in on it,” Brice Hamack, civil rights lawyer for CAIR, was quoted by NBC.

“We had teachers who would tell their students they’re not American enough to be commenting on Islamic issues. We found teachers showing very biased and derogatory hate films coming from groups all over the country. We found these really troubling.”

CAIR researchers surveyed over 600 Muslim students ages 11 to 18 across the state. Nearly 20 percent of the students are from Santa Clara County.

The group listed some recommendations to fight discrimination, for the US Congress, textbook publishers, administrators, teachers and parents to help Muslim students feel welcomed, comfortable, respected and able to learn in a safe environment.

“If students don’t feel respected or part of the (school) environment,” Dadabhoy said, “you become marginalized and disempowered.”

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