SAN DIEGO – A leading US Muslim advocacy group has released a new study showing that a high number of Muslim students in the US western state of California fall victims of bullying from classmates, teachers and administrators.
"I was bullied when I was in middle school," Hanif Mohebi of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was quoted by ABC 10 News on Thursday, December 19.
“We were called terrorists, we were called at the time Saddam Hussein,” he added.
The new report was released by the California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday.
The new report, "Growing in Faith: California Muslim Youth Experiences with Bullying, Harassment and Religious Accommodation in Schools," is based on a statewide survey of almost 500 Muslim students, ages 11 to 18.
They were asked questions about their relationships with peers and teachers, as well as their comfort levels participating in discussions about Islam and Muslims.
The study found one in five female students were harassed because they wore hijabs or Islamic headscarves.
"Questions like, 'Are you a terrorist?'" said 16-year-old Salma Hassane, who was interviewed for the study.
Salma, who attends La Jolla High School, said sometimes her classmates and teachers just don't understand.
"'Do you wear the scarf in the shower?' Do you take it off at home?'" Salma said she has been asked.
Salma's father said he was insulted when someone said, "Your cousin was killed," when referring to Osama bin Laden's death.
The survey said those type of comments have made one in five Muslim students uncomfortable to speak during class.
Most disturbing, the reported harassment also came from teachers and administrators.
CAIR said it hopes school administrators and law enforcement would use the first-of-its-kind report as an educational tool for teachers and students.
Salma said she hopes the numbers will decrease, with the study to back them up.
"It's not only us trying to make the effort, but it's also them trying to incorporate us and trying to make us feel more comfortable," said Salma.
The report also shares anecdotes from CAIR-CA's case files to highlight the problems reported to the civil rights organization's offices and includes information about recent changes to the law because of high-profile cases of extreme school bullying.
Additionally, the report provides information for parents about how to request religious accommodation for their child and a list of resources that parents can use to learn more about the issues children face at school.
Though there are no official estimates, the US is home to an estimated Muslim minority of six to eight million.
An earlier Gallup poll found that the majority of Americans Muslims are loyal to their country and optimistic about their future in the United States.
Another US survey has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
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