Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools | Mother Jones

The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools | Mother Jones:

The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools

Accusations, beatings, even death threats—that's life for Muslim kids in America.



Four million Syrians like Nour have fled the brutal civil war. Now she's trying to help other Muslim kids feel safer at school. 
"WHAT DO YOU MISS about Syria the most?" I ask Nour on a rainy December afternoon in 2015, as we board a train after school. The soft-spoken 17-year old has invited me to join her at "I Stand with Arabs and Muslims," a rally in San Francisco organized in the wake of the biggest spike in anti-Muslim violence in a decade, following deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
"Everything," Nour answers. Dressed in a black "Youth Power" T-shirt, black jeans, and white sneakers, she hesitates to find her next words. "I miss the sense of community, family togetherness." She begins to list off details from the life she used to live in the rural town of As-Suwayda, about an hour south of Damascus: the sound of the fire in the small, propane stove in their living room; the smell of hot mate tea; the cracking of sunflower seeds; her aunts' chatter. She misses the big fig tree in her grandmother's backyard and all the books they had in their house. They were mostly novels. Nour's mother and father taught Arabic literature in local public schools. Nour was a carefree, bookish teenager in Syria—one of the top students in her school, stressed out about exams and grades.
"It's strange for me to think of myself as an activist now," says Nour. "But there is a growing tension I feel at school, after Paris, especially toward two girls from Yemen who wear headscarves over long, black dresses. Students often ask them, 'Why do you wear this? Can you take it off? I want to see your hair!' I want to help them feel safer and more included at school."
Students ask girls with headscarves, 'Why do you wear this? Can you take it off? I want to see your hair!'
In recent months, anti-immigrant rhetoric has spiked across the country—and in local and national politics. After the Paris attacks, more than two-dozen Republican governors said they don't want Syrian refugees in their states. And Donald Trump said that if he were president he would kick all Syrian refugees out of the country; Ted Cruz said Muslims should be sent to "majority-Muslim countries," but that Christians should be provided with a safe haven in the United States. Cruz made his comments about Christians while speaking at a middle school.
During that same month, harassment and violence against Muslims—and Sikhs who wear turbans or Indian women who wear headscarves and are mistaken for being The Chilling Rise of Islamophobia in Our Schools | Mother Jones:

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