Growing In Faith: California Muslim Youth Experiences with Bullying , Harassment & Religious Accommodation in Schools

Full Report: Growing In Faith

 

The California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relation’s (CAIR-CA) 2012 Muslim Youth at School Survey was the first statewide survey to examine the experiences of American Muslim youth at school. It targeted youth from across California and received responses from 21 counties. In total, 471 Muslim American students attending public school between the ages of 11 and 18 responded to the survey, which consisted of 10 multiple choice questions and space for comments.

Through the survey, CAIR-CA sought to better understand how comfortable American Muslim students felt attending their schools and participating in the classroom. CAIR-CA also made it a goal to enhance its awareness of the extent to which students were being bullied and their responses.

California’s Muslim students, for the most part, reported a healthy school environment in which they were comfortable participating in discussions about their religious identity, believed that their teachers respected their religion, and felt safe at school.

Most of the respondents came from areas of California with large and robust Muslim populations, such as Orange County and Santa Clara County. This may account for the many responses we received from students who stated that they felt confident and supported in asserting their Muslim identity at school.  While many respondents indicated that they simply internalized anti-Muslim name-calling from peers, such as “Osama Bin Laden” and “terrorist,” many indicated that this did not have a long-lasting effect on them.

As evidenced by the findings in this report, there are still significant issues facing American Muslim youth at school. The majority of school-related cases reported to CAIR involve teacher discrimination. Therefore, it is significant that 18% of the surveyed students answered: ‘Strongly Disagree,’ ‘Disagree,’ or ‘Undecided’ when asked about feeling comfortable participating in classroom discussions and 19% of students answered: ‘Strongly Disagree,’ ‘Disagree,’ or ‘Undecided’ when asked if their teachers respected their religion.

More than 10% of American Muslim students reported physical bullying such as slapping, kicking, or punching. Seventeen percent of the female respondents who wear a hijab, the Islamic headscarf, reported being bullied at least once because of this. Most importantly, 50% of American Muslim students reported being subjected to mean comments and rumors about them because of their religion. Additionally, more than 21% of students reported experiencing some form of cyberbullying.

Students had mixed reactions to reporting incidents to adults. About 63% said that they reported incidents of bullying to a teacher or principal, while only 53% said they reported to their parents. As to whether they thought reporting helped, 35% answered that it ‘Never,’ ‘Rarely,’ or ‘Sometimes’ helped, and only 17% answered that it ‘Often,’ or ‘Very Often’ helped.

With respect to how students reacted to their aggressors when they were bullied, 8% said that they fought back, 21% said that they insulted them back, and 11% said that they reacted by making fun of the aggressor’s religion or race. Sixty-one percent reported that they never fought back, 51% said that they never insulted their aggressor, and 60% reported that they never made fun of the bully’s religion or race.

School bullying is a phenonmenon that affects students from diverse backgrounds and experiences, and American Muslim students are not exempt from being subjected to harassment and discrimination at school. As Islam and Muslims continue to be in the public spotlight, negative representations and assumptions in the public sphere serve as obstacles to cultivating a tolerant, nurturing, and healthy school environment for all students.

Link to pdf of report: http://ca.cair.com/downloads/GrowingInFaith.pdf

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR): http://www.cair.com/

Demand for US-born imams up as mosques struggle to retain new generation of American Muslims

Mustafa UmarANAHEIM, Calif. — Mustafa Umar, an imam in Southern California, is popular with the Muslim teenagers who attend his mosque. They pepper him with questions about sensitive topics like marijuana use, dating and pornography.

Umar, 31, is a serious Islamic scholar who has studied the Quran in the Middle East, Europe and India — but he’s also a native Californian, who is well-versed in social media and pop culture, and can connect with teens on their own terms.

That pedigree is rare — 85 percent of fulltime, paid imams in the U.S. are foreign-born — but the demand for people like him is growing as American Muslim leaders look for ways to keep the religion relevant for young people in a secular country that cherishes freedom of expression.

“The demand for American-born imams is an articulation of something much deeper,” said Timur Yuskaev, director of the Islamic chaplaincy program at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, which educates Islamic faith leaders.

“It’s a realization that assimilation is happening and it’s going to happen. Now, how do we control it, how do we channel it?” he said. “These congregations, if they do not provide the services that the congregants expect, then they will not survive.”

Abdel Rahman Murphy, a 25-year-old assistant imam in Knoxville, Tenn., is striking that balance with his newly founded Muslim youth group called Roots. Kids play sports, battle it out in video-game playing contests or strut in a girls’ Muslim fashion show with the tongue-in-cheek title “Cover Girl.”

Murphy, the son of an Egyptian immigrant mother and an Irish-American convert, was kicked out of a private Islamic middle school and strayed from the faith in high school — an experience he always keeps in mind.

“We can’t change what’s inside the package, but we can repackage it,” said Murphy, who tweets about college basketball and his faith.

ACLU: Report exposes a covert U.S. Govt immigration program that unlawfully prevents many Muslim applicants from becoming citizens and lawful immigrants

LOS ANGELES AND SAN FRANCISCO – The ACLU of Southern California (ACLU SoCal), the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), and the law firm of Mayer Brown today released a 70-page report exposing a covert government program called the “Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program” (CARRP), which was created in 2008 to make it all but impossible for many Muslim, Arab, Middle Eastern, and South Asian individuals to become American citizens, or otherwise obtain legal residency or asylum status.

The government program was meant to screen immigrants for national security concerns has blacklisted some Muslims and put their U.S. citizenship applications on hold for years, civil liberties advocates said Wednesday.

 

The American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California said in a report that the previously undisclosed program instructs federal immigration officers to find ways to deny applications that have been deemed a national security concern. For example, they flag discrepancies in a petition or claim they didn’t receive sufficient information from the immigrant.

The criteria used by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to blacklist immigrants are overly broad and include traveling through regions where there is terrorist activity, the report said.

The ACLU learned about the program through records requests after detecting a pattern in cases of Muslim immigrants whose applications to become American citizens had languished.

“It is essentially creating this secret criteria for obtaining naturalization and immigration benefits that has never been disclosed to the public and Congress hasn’t approved,” said Jennie Pasquarella, an ACLU staff attorney and the author of the report.

Under the program, immigration officers determine whether a case poses a national security concern and confer with the appropriate law enforcement agency that has information about the immigrant. Officers then conduct additional research and put many cases on hold for long periods of time. Most applications are eventually denied, as the program states that officers are not allowed to approve such cases without additional review, the report said.

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Lawmakers ask Obama for religious diversity summit

Nearly 40 members of the U.S. House, among them Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and Muslims, sent a letter to President Obama on Wednesday (July 17) urging him to convene a “Religious Diversity Summit” and do more to fight discrimination against religious minorities.

“The targeting of religious minorities in America is reaching a crisis point and we believe your leadership is crucial to stemming this rising tide of violence,” the letter writers said.

The letter comes just ahead of the first anniversary of the Aug. 5 attack by a white supremacist on a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wis., that killed six worshippers. Muslim advocacy groups say there has been an increase in attacks against mosques and Muslims since the Boston Marathon bombings on April 15.

All 37 signatories were Democrats, including Buddhist Hank Johnson of Georgia, Hindu Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, Muslims Keith Ellison of Minnesota and Andre Carson of Indiana, and Jews Jared Polis of Colorado, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, and Henry Waxman and Alan Lowenthal, both of California.

“The terrible and very public episodes of violence this country has seen over the past several years deserve a response, and as elected leaders we have an obligation to be a part of that response,” wrote Arizona Democrat Raul M. Grijalva, one of several Christians to sign the letter.

Nominee for California student regent draws rare ire

SAN FRANCISCO — The University of California’s governing board confirmed its first Muslim student member Wednesday, despite some Jewish groups’ claims that she marginalized Jewish students and promoted an anti-Israel agenda.

Regents voted unanimously to ratify UC Berkeley student Sadia Saifuddin’s nomination, with one regent, Richard Blum, abstaining from the vote.

UC Berkeley senior Sadia Saifuddin was picked from a field of 30 applicants to serve on the UC Board of Regents during the 2014-15 academic year. As student regent-designate, the 21-year-old Pakistani American would participate in meetings but wouldn’t be able to cast votes during the school year that begins this fall.

Saifuddin’s critics had urged the regents to reject the nomination, pointing to a student government proposal Saifuddin co-sponsored calling for the university to divest from companies with economic ties to the Israeli military or Israeli settlements on the West Bank. The critics said it was evidence she is unqualified to represent all of the UC system’s more than 222,000 students.

Jewish Voice for Peace, a Berkeley-based group that opposes Israeli settlements in the West bank and Gaza, issued a statement Wednesday saying that Saifuddin had been “made the target of yet another intimidation and repression campaign against anyone who dares criticize Israel on campus.”

Judge gives prison housing Lindh 30 days to allow Muslims to hold group prayers outside cells

INDIANAPOLIS — A federal judge on Friday gave the government 30 days to start allowing American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh and other Muslim inmates to hold group prayers outside their cells in a high-security prison in Indiana.

In a seven-page order, Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson said the Bureau of Prisons might have misconstrued her ruling seven months ago that granted Lindh’s request to hold group prayers in the Terre Haute federal prison’s Communications Management Unit, so she made her intent clear.

“The warden is to allow group prayer during every Muslim prayer time for which the inmates are not confined to their cells,” she wrote in bold print.

“Put simply, just as inmates are free to assemble, socialize and engage in other group activities in common, recreational areas during times they are released from their cells, so too must they be allowed to engage in group prayer in common, out-of-cell areas,” Magnus-Stinson said.

U.S. troops captured Lindh in Afghanistan in 2001. Lindh, who grew up in California and was raised Catholic, was accused of fighting for the Taliban to help them build a pure Islamic state. In 2002, he pleaded guilty to supplying services to the now-defunct Taliban government and carrying explosives for them. He is eligible for release from prison in 2019.

The group prayer lawsuit originally was filed in 2009 by two Muslim inmates. The case drew far more attention after Lindh joined it in 2010. The other plaintiffs dropped out as they were released from prison or transferred to other units.

Abercrombie Struggling To Prove Fired Woman’s Hijab Hurt Sales: Report

Abercrombie & Fitch is having a hard time proving in court that the Muslim headscarf worn by an employee who was fired in 2010 hurt the clothing company’s sales, Law360 reports.

On Tuesday, when a federal judge in California pressed attorney Mark Knueve, who is representing Abercrombie, if he or any of his witnesses had financial records to show the woman’s hijab hurt sales, Knueve said he didn’t.

“A defendant says we’re harmed but provides no real evidence?” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers retorted, according to the report. “And you want me to grant summary judgment [in your favor]?”

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) originally sued Abercrombie in 2011 on behalf of Hani Khan, the Muslim woman who says she was fired from a Hollister store in a California mall in 2010 because she wore a hijab to work. (Abercrombie owns Hollister.)

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Khan was wearing the religious garment when she interviewed for the job in October 2009 and during the first four months she worked at the San Mateo, Calif., clothing store.

Yet in February 2010, when a visiting district manager saw her wearing it and spoke with one of the store’s human resources employees, they decided the headscarf violated the store’s controversial “Look Policy,” which critics have said is usually interpreted to mean white, muscular and thin.

On Wednesday, Abercrombie spokesman Mackenzie Bruce told The Huffington Post the company does not discriminate based on religion and that it grants religious accommodations, including for hijabs, when such accommodations are considered “reasonable.”

This isn’t the first time Abercrombie has been in trouble over this issue. In 2009 the clothing store was found guilty of discrimination and ordered to pay $20,000 to a 19-year-old Muslim college student who was refused a job because her hijab violated the store’s “Look Policy.”

U.S. Delegates Visit Moscow for Insight on Boston Attack

Members of a Congressional delegation visiting Moscow to investigate the background of the Boston Marathon bombing suspects said Sunday that the attack might have been prevented by greater cooperation between the United States and Russia on intelligence issues and counterterrorism efforts.

But the lawmakers said they could not point to any specific misstep by the American or Russia intelligence services, and they did not offer any new insights into what motivated the suspects, two brothers with family ties in Russia’s North Caucasus, to commit the attack.

“Yes, it could have been averted,” said Representative Dana Rohrabacher, a California Republican who led the delegation and is the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats. “Not just by one mistake by the United States or one mistake made over here in Russia, but instead by making sure that both countries were working together on a much higher level.”

Adding an odd celebrity touch, the lawmakers were joined by the action-film star Steven Seagal, who has a following in Russia. Mr. Seagal had helped arrange meetings and even offered to take the lawmakers to Chechnya to meet Ramzan Kadyrov, the region’s leader, who has been accused of human rights abuses.

The Chechnya visit was called off for logistical reasons, but Mr. Rohrbacher thanked Mr. Seagal and said he was instrumental in securing some meetings, including a session with Dmitri Rogozin, a deputy prime minister. “I don’t know that he would have been available to us if not for Steven’s role,” Mr. Rohrbacher said.

 

Minnesota Somalis react to sentences in al-Shabab case with mix of outrage, relief

MINNEAPOLIS — Wide-ranging sentences handed down in the yearslong federal investigation into recruiting and financing for the terrorist group al-Shabab have kindled a mix of outrage, confusion and relief among members of Minnesota’s large Somali community.

Some say the 10- and 20-year prison sentences for two Minnesota women who sent money to the group were too harsh, especially since two men who traveled to Somalia and joined al-Shabab got three years. The attorney for one man sentenced to 20 years in prison has already filed a notice of appeal; more are expected.

Prosecutors have said the men and women were part of a “deadly pipeline,” sending money and men to al-Shabab, which the U.S. government has designated a terrorist organization for its links to al-Qaida and its tactics that include suicide bombings and assassinations. At least 22 men left Minnesota for Somalia since 2007 in what has been called one of the largest efforts to recruit U.S. fighters for a foreign terrorist organization.

Last week’s sentences are in line with other al-Shabab-related cases. In New Jersey, two men arrested while trying to board flights to Somalia for a jihad were sentenced to 22 and 20 years in prison. A southern California woman received eight years for sending money to Minnesota men in Somalia, while a Missouri man received more than 11 years for funding al-Shabab.

GOP Congressman Says Islam Will ‘Motivate People To Murder Children’

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) during a hearing on Friday said that he believes that Islam as a whole is a threat to the United States, labeling it as a religion that will “motivate people to murder children.” During a hearing he chaired on “Islamist Extremism in Chechnya: A Threat to the U.S. Homeland?” Rohrabacher continually referred to the 2004 Beslan hostage situation  in which Chechen extremists took control of a school in Russia resulting in the death of more than 180 children  as an example of the threat that Islam poses. At one point, the California Republican sought to clarify that he wasn’t opposed to any religious group gaining power within a region  only Islam. “What we need to worry about is if it happens to be a religion that convinces people that part of their faith is to go off and murder other people’s children,” he said, referring to Islam broadly. Later in the hearing, Rohrabacher was more clear: Islamophobia has seen a resurgence in the aftermath of the Boston attacks, with Fox News leading the charge in promoting a new wave of fear towards Muslims. Rohrabacher is no stranger himself to controversy surrounding Islam. In 2012, he accused President Obama of “pandering to radical Islamic forces” in the aftermath of the Benghazi attack.