WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A leading Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization says a high percentage of Muslim youth are being bullied for their religion.
Azeem Chaudhry, one of the youth group mentors told 22News, “I used to hide the fact that I was Muslim.”
In a recent report from the Massachusetts chapter of the Council of American-Islamic relations, 3 in 5 Muslim students in Massachusetts reported being mocked, verbally harassed, or even physically abused because of their faith.
“It isn’t just physical and verbal, it’s online. It’s kind of hard to avoid,” Chaudhry said.
Thirty-three percent of high schoolers surveyed say they altered their appearance, behavior, or names to hide that they’re Muslim.
Mariam Aydah, another youth group mentor said, “Before I started wearing hijab I used to test out one day with one day without, and I would look to see how people would react to me and you would see a huge difference.”
Seventeen percent of students report having their hijab tugged, pulled on, or other forms of offensive touching. The Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts restarted their youth group as a way to help young Muslim students feel supported.
“There were a few critical cases that came up for example suicidal so that to me was very alarming,” Aydah added.
Eighty-four percent of students surveyed said individual Muslim students are being pushed to be the sole voice for all Muslims in the classroom.
“My teachers have been pretty biased with me when they taught it.”
The council recommends incorporating lesson plans developed by Muslim organizations or lead by Muslim scholars for students to learn about the religion would help educate non-Muslim students.
“At least have a Muslim teach Islam or even have a guest speaker where it’s not just the one professor who already has their own biases,” Miriam continued.