Alisdare Hickson is licensed under  CC BY 2.0

Alisdare Hickson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

San Diego school district proposes steps to combating Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is the fear expressed by a community or an individual towards anyone who practices the Islam doctrines. While it was limited in the past, Islamophobia in the U.S. has increased significantly over the past few years.

The elevation of this fear can be attributed to the perception held by some that Muslims are typically terrorists and actions by the government perpetuating restrictions against citizens from Muslim-majority nations. Islamophobia is dangerous because like all other fears, it risks injury of one party, in this case, the Muslims residing in the U.S. In San Diego schools, over half of the Muslim student population reported bullying.

To address this nationwide problem in their state, schools from the San Diego Unified School District decided to propose policies which if implemented, they hope can reduce the rampant Islamophobia in the region. The district board in charge of all public schools in the area met, and drafted a letter full of suggested steps to curb Islamophobia. The draft was well received among some populations but received harsh criticism from others.

Proposed Steps toward fighting Islamophobia

The school district board suggested that there are two ways to deal with Islamophobia: to make people understand the Islamic culture so they no longer feared it and to grant Muslims the same freedoms enjoyed by members of other religions.

Understanding the Muslim faith, the board stated, would take various forms. To begin with, the community suggested that schools stock material on the Islamic culture in their libraries for students to read. Additionally, each school could provide teachers with resources on the same to educate the students about Muslims. Students who choose the option would also be able to take Muslim religion as a class, the proposal read. Learning about the Islamic faith would help non-Muslim children understand their Muslim counterparts better so they can stop being afraid of them or bullying them, stated Hanif Mohebi, a member of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. The board worked with this council to come up with the strategies.

Once the staff, students, and parents tied to these institutions addressed their ignorance of the Islamic community, the board proposed Muslim students and staff be treated the same as those who practiced other religions. One example was schools could design their curricula around Muslim holidays just as they did with Christian celebrations. This step, however, was not mandatory for any institution, remarked Stan Anjan, the executive director of Family and Community Engagement in San Diego. Other suggestions included making room in schools where Muslims could conduct their prayers, allowing the formation of high school clubs dedicated Islam (much like Bible study groups) and allowing Muslims to abstain from work or school during Islamic festivals.

Those against the policies put forward cited increased Islamic religious influence as their defense. Others raised concerns that Sharia Law was taking over. The board allayed these fears by stating they were not favoring any religion or endorsing Islam by giving its devotees their due.

San Diego is now the third county to take steps to curb Islamophobia, after Kansas City and Oakland.

Resources

Follow the Conversation on Twitter