Muslim prejudice is intolerable

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About 40 percent of Muslim students in California report that they have been targets of bullying because of their religion, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations. This figure is twice as high as the national average.

In addition to that, bystanders are present in 88 percent of bullying incidents, according to the Islamic Networks Group. This means that when nearly all of these incidents take place, other students are willing witnesses to this cruelty and encourage this harassment through passivity. 

A bystander’s silence is what hurts just as much as the tormentor’s vile insults directed toward innocent Muslim students.

A common instance of bullying is where a student will rip off a girl’s hijab, expose her hair, and make crude comments about her religion. These tormentors view the hijab as a target for them to mark.

Some say that Muslim girls should not wear a hijab because it perpetuates the idea that women are obligated to hide their bodies due to shame. But the hijab represents more than the restrictions of modesty. It is a symbol of cultural identity. 

Nobody has the right to determine how someone should express their nationality. 

Additionally, only four regions require women to wear the hijab: Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, and the Aceh province of Indonesia. Wearing a hijab is not a sign of oppression, but one of cultural pride. Muslim girls represent their culture despite knowing that their attire might make them more susceptible to mistreatment.

There is no shame in expressing religious faith through physical means. To wear a hijab is not to be weak. A Muslim girl does not wear a hijab simply to bend to the will of oppressive cultural values nor to paint a target for bullies to take advantage of. No one can define what the hijab represents other than the one who wears it. 

Bullies target Muslim students because they don’t understand their cultural values while those who do are paralyzed by fear. If schools continue to remain blind to the bullying that occurs on their campuses, they perpetuate the idea that reports of bullying are meaningless. 

In response to these bullying incidents, the California Department of Education has posted a guide to anti-bullying training procedures that all schools in the state must enforce by Dec. 31 of this year.

Change at the state level is critical to reduce bullying, but the most important transformation should be in attitude. 

Bullying may decrease but it will never permanently stop. It’s up to individual students to refuse the acceptance of intolerance by reporting incidents of bullying. This is the best way to ensure the safety of not only Muslim students, but every student.