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Youth Voice: Growing Up Muslim in America

For many students in America, bullying is a daily reality that contributes to them feeling stressed, unsafe, and distracted from learning. Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students, as well as Muslim, Arab, Sikh, and South Asian (MASSA) students, can be bullied based on their religion, appearance, immigration status, language skills, - PDF and more. In honor of National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month, we are highlighting the voice of Syeda Raza, who recounts her experience growing up Muslim in America:

"During the 23 years that my family has lived in America, my parents and I never faced verbal abuse or harassment until recently. I remember my dad coming home angry one day. When I asked about what happened, he responded with a pain in his voice that a lady asked him if he was Muslim. He said yes to the woman, only to see her start ranting about how Muslims are invading and destroying this country. She insulted him about his faith, nationality, and immigrant background. My dad tried to be respectful to the woman and tell her how this country is his family’s home. He also told her he immigrated here to give his daughter the best chance at life. But it was clear that these words meant nothing to her.

"What disturbs me even more is how the current climate is affecting young children. As an educator, it hurts me to hear a sixth grade student say that she didn’t think she could be the first American Muslim president because she thought too many people hated Muslims. I believe children and adolescents are constantly accepting the information they hear and read through various forms of media.

"Educators need to support their Muslim students in a time when people are judging and blaming the Muslim community. My favorite teachers were always those who respected my Muslim identity and encouraged open discussions in the classroom. As an educator, my students deserve a classroom culture where their diverse experiences and backgrounds are valued. This is exactly the kind of mindset that needs to extend beyond the classroom doors and into other spaces."

To learn more about what schools and communities can do to help protect children from different ethnicities and faiths against bullying, please visit StopBullying.gov Who is at Risk and Diversity, Race & Religion sections. Additionally, you may want to read the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force Report - PDF, developed by the Asian American and Pacific Islander Bullying Prevention Task Force. 

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