Young California Muslims feel accepted, still face bias, study says
Most young Muslim students feel accepted on California junior high and high school campuses, though a significant number say they face bias from their teachers and bullying from fellow students, according to a new report by a leading Islamic advocacy group.
The report, based on a survey from the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, offers a nuanced portrayal of the climate young Muslims face in California schools. Of the nearly 500 Muslim youth surveyed from across the state, about 80% reported positively on their overall educational experience, noting they were comfortable speaking about their religion in the classroom and that they feel safe and respected by teachers.
But 10% reported being physically bullied – including being slapped, kicked or punched. Seventeen percent of girls who wore the hijab – an Islamic headscarf – reported being mistreated because of their choice in clothing. And half responded they they’d been subject to mean comments or rumors because of their faith.
The overall positive response came “as quite a surprise,” said CAIR attorney Fatima Dadabhoy, who helped author the study. “When we started, the anecdotal evidence we’d been gathering suggested a different kind of picture.”
But Dadabhoy lamented the disconnect between students who said they’d been bullied, while at the same time reporting feeling well accepted at school. “A lot of students are internalizing mistreatment,” she said. “More needs to be done to show our students what bullying really is.”
Dadabhoy also noted that a significant number of students worry their complaints about discrimination won’t be taken seriously by teachers.
The study, started in 2012 and relying on online surveys and focus groups in local mosques, showed Muslim students who lived in places like Orange County, where their faith is well established, felt the most secure about their school experience.
Focusing on students who were between 11 and 18, CAIR said the study’s aim was to raise awareness of bullying and the complex issues young Muslims face daily, and to highlight the legal protections available for children who are harassed because of their religion.
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