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The Bullying of Americas Muslim Children

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rug Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 11:53 AM
Original message
Pia Rebello Britto, Ph.D., Yale University, ISPU Fellow

While bullying is on the rise in American schools, the reasons why Muslim children are being bullied vary: the American mainstreams limited knowledge, pervasive misperceptions, and negative stereotypes about Muslims. Little is known about Islam and Muslims, and little is being done tredress this situation. Recent data gathere on this student population indicates that continued inaction might engender a divided society related to schoolbased ostracism. This brief recommends a series of actions that, if implemented at the individual, school, community, and legislative levels, will help improve the situation and lead to a greater acceptance of Muslimmchildren and youth.

Context and Importance

On a typical day, ten-year-old Muslim Arab-American Reyhan steps outside her front door prepared to face taunts, jeers, and stares that place her in the company of those who bomb everything from cars to buildings. Although she is growing up in an American suburb, her reality is as far removed from those terrorists as is that of her next-door neighbor. Identified more easily because of her headscarf, Reyhan is often the recipient of discrimination and name-calling. But hersituation is most difficult at school, where her peers bully and socially exclude her, her teachers ask about the bag over her head, and where textbooks misinterpret her religion. She neither understands what all of this means nor how to respond; nevertheless, the ensuing social ostracism and misunderstanding deeply hurt her. Part of her feels guilt and shame and wants to distance herself from her community; yet another part of her takes tremendous pride in her family and heritage. She draws great strength from her religion and cultural traditions. Growing up Muslim in post-9/11 America is probably onof the most challenging tasks in human development.

While the schoolyard bully is not a recent phenomenon, the global geopolitical situation played out in schoolyard bullying certainly is. The bullying of school-aged children is on the rise, well-documented, and growing. The usual reasons, namely, physical appearance, ability level, and popularity, are being joined by lesser known (although equally strong) ones: ethnic and religious discrimination among school children. Muslim children report peer rejection, victimization, and social ostracism and isolation because of their religious affiliation. Based on recent work examining the process of identity development of Muslim Arab children, preliminary results suggest
that their ethnicity is one cause. Ever since 9/11, there have been increasing reports of discrimination, bullying, and exclusion of Muslim students in schools. Based
on the results of several studies, they are reporting pervasive misperceptions and negative stereotypes about Islam in their schools and feelings of isolation and separation from their peers and the larger school community. In large part, this bullying is linked to cultural misunderstanding. For example, girls who wear the hijab
report feeling the most vulnerable. This phenomenon has been dubbed hijabophobia. Even though negative media portrayal of Muslims is in part associated with these misperceptions, recent research also indicates that the curricula and teachers might be negatively biased in how information about Islam is being taught in public schools. Given the limited instructional resources available to teachers, educational polls note that this factor does little to eliminate the personal biases of
teachers and school administrators.

If not addressed effectively and immediately, this situation could lead to a multifaceted problem characterized by such potentially negative consequences as a divided American society. Our identity, a multidimensional construct consisting of such factors as gender, occupation, education, cultural background, and race, is a life-long process that emerges out of an interaction between our individual selves and the socialcontext within which we reside. This process begins in childhood and is often consolidated during adolescence. Ethnic identity, which defines who we are with respect to a specific reference group, is one of the most central aspects of personal identity for immigrants and theirchildren. More importantly, this aspect has been linked to psychological adjustment, academic achievement, selfesteem, and the overall well-being of immigrant children and adolescents. Social, political, and cultural contexts are primary influences on ethnic identity, and thus discord

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lbrtbell Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 12:26 PM
Response to Original message
1. Oh, please!
You want a religious group that's really bullied? Talk to Wiccan and/or Pagan kids.

They've been bullied all along, long before 9/11. And Muslims were among those who bullied them. I guess the shoe pinches hard on the other foot.
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Odin2005 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 12:46 PM
Response to Reply #1
3. I've heard a story about a Wiccan in a small Southern town who was...
Harassed constantly by local authorities and threatened with having her kid taken away if she did not attend "the correct church".
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izquierdista Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 01:36 PM
Response to Reply #3
4. Not just in the South.....
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 02:01 PM
Response to Reply #1
8. One does not justify the other...
bullying children is always wrong. And as regards both the bullying of Pagan and of Muslim children, the specifically religious bigotry is just one part of the general bullying of minority groups and those who are seen as 'different'.
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David Sky Donating Member (586 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 12:32 PM
Response to Original message
2. Beginning to see a pattern here: religious groups' children being bullied by
children of other religious groups' parents.

Pattern that has been going on as long as there have been religions.
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trotsky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 01:38 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. It's an inherent feature of most religions.
Only the more intelligent and mature believers don't engage in it - which is why it happens so much with children.
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David Sky Donating Member (586 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 01:57 PM
Response to Reply #5
6. Yes, part of the religious teachings of Islam and Christianity (for instance), demand
their followers to place their own religion above all others, force followers to reject those that "tempt" them into non-belief, or rejection of the religion's fundamental teachings and "truths".

No wonder that 10 year-olds will bully other 10 year-olds who follow a competing religion's dogma.
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LeftishBrit Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Sep-24-11 02:00 PM
Response to Original message
7. Depressing
In the UK, this tends to be very closely related to racism and anti-immigrant bigotry.
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