More than 60 percent of Muslim students said they've felt unsafe in public since the 2016 election campaign, according to a recent survey. (Photo: J Pat Carter/Getty Images)

How Do Washington State Schools Counter Anti-Muslim Bullying?

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(Reposted from: Public News Service.  August 23, 2017)

KENT, Wash. – Going back to school can be a stressful time for students and, in the current political climate, can be even harder for those who are Muslims.

Since the 2016 election campaign, incidents of bullying Muslim students have skyrocketed. In a survey by the Washington chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the Muslim Community Resource Center, more than 60 percent of Muslim students have said they’ve felt unsafe in public since 2016.

Jasmin Samy, the CAIR civil rights director in Washington, said the group is working on a 2017 bullying report – and she knows the results are going to be “heartbreaking.”

“We already have some numbers, and we can see how bad it is,” she said. “So, we’re at the stage where this is the time – you can’t just close your eyes and go do something else. If you’re not going to focus on this now, then it’s useless. It’s not something that you can postpone.”

Samy said Washington schools need to understand the magnitude of the problem. Last year, she went to districts across the state to talk about the basics of Islam, to help faculty and students understand the faith. Samy said schools need to learn how to be proactive and also react if an incident occurs.

The word “heartbreaking” came up again as Nasarin Ahmed, a college access site coordinator at Kentlake High School, described some of the stories she’s heard from Muslim students. After informing staff that Ramadan was approaching, Ahmed herself was the target of anti-Islamic hate mail. In response, Kentlake launched training and also a Muslim student forum, where kids shared their experiences with staff and teachers.

“Just being in that environment and listening to your students firsthand, and not hearing it about another country or another state or another school that this has happened in – this happened in your own backyard, students that you’ve had or have right now – was really important for them,” Ahmed said.

Samy said it’s also important for students who aren’t Muslim to stand up for their peers.

“They need to speak up,” she said. “They need to stand for one another in general, and they need to feel that somebody has their back, and that other students care about them and really want to be there.”

More information about CAIR-WA is online at cairseattle.org.

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