55% of California Muslim students have reported being bullied.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has found that Muslim students in California are bullied twice as much as those in other states.

The survey covered 621 students aged between 11 and 18 enrolled at non-Muslim and public schools in the state of California and found that 55% of them reported bullying on account of their religious background. This is alarmingly more than double the national average, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education.

Of all the forms of bullying experienced by male students, 52% was verbal. Females who wore a hijab or religious headscarf to school experienced lesser instances of bullying, but more of discrimination – 29% of them were touched in an offensive manner by other students and 27% felt their own teachers were biased against them.

However, according to the same study, these may just be an outcome of instructors treating everyone in the same way. Female Muslim students need gender-segregated swimming classes and their requests to wear long pants at Physical Education sessions have not been considered favorably. Muslims have also complained that school administrators did not excuse them for absence on Eid and were not sympathetic towards their demand for Halal food. Not being permitted to pray in the library was one of the grievances that were highlighted, while another grouse was being made to run the mile during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting. The female respondents also defined what they construed as “being touched in an offensive manner” – it was actually their hijabs that were touched or pulled. One female student felt uncomfortable because her classmates wanted to see her hair.

The results even raise the question of whether Islamophobia exists in schools to the degree as pointed out – 83% felt safe, welcome and respected at their schools, 75% felt comfortable taking part in discussions on Islam and countries where Muslims live, even though this is a flammable topic because of its links to terrorism, 83% felt comfortable letting others know that they were Muslim, and 66% said the administrators were responsive to their requests for halal food or a different Physical Education uniform. Only 11% mentioned being subjected to physical abuse or harassment by other students.

21% were of the opinion that someone in charge, like a teacher, instructor or administrator allowed others to make offensive comments at school. In a similar situation earlier, the right to freedom of expression had come into play and it was informed that a student could not be prevented from expressing his/her views in public.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations also took into account the ethnic background of those who were bullied. Those hailing from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia were the most harassed in this fashion, and there were no marked differences across academic levels.


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