On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked in a terrorist incident that killed over 3,000 people. It was this singular event that reshaped how Americans looked at the Middle East and in in particular, muslims. While officially agencies, leaders, churches and society stated loudly not to focus on Islam as a reason for terrorists, many muslims have for years faced muslim bullying, discrimination and ill-treatment, particularly if they look arabic or dress in traditional muslim clothing.
Muslim bullying is an outgrowth of the same societal reaction that carried the original 9-11 emotion. However, it is not related. Instead, unfortunately, it is a type of bullying that is allowed in some circles because the U.S. has been in a military conflict with radical Muslims for the last 13 years in the countries of Afghanistan and Iraq. As a result, socially, Americans do not equate muslim bullying a behavior that is a shock as racial bullying or gender bullying, for example.
The typical muslim bullying, ironically, has nothing to do with religion either. It’s more often associated with visual cues, such as how a person is dressed that may stereotypically look muslim to the bully. The bullying can be as simple as namecalling to outright physical contact with the victim, primarily focusing on clothing and appearance that doesn’t look Western or American.
As a result, this kind of bullying can trigger a number of complications. First, the “wrong” person can be bulllied. Many Sikh children and people have been bullied simply because Sikh culture involves the wearing of a turban or headdress. The uneducated bully assumes anyone with a turban must be a muslim. Second, while it’s more likely that someone in traditional Arabic dress may be muslim, the bullying behavior targets anyone based on the inaccurate criteria, which can include a number of different cultures. So even if muslim bullying were an acceptable behavior in our society, due to a lack of geographic education many bullies have no clue who muslims really are.
There is no question that what occurred on 9-11 was heinous, but to equate that all muslim people are then responsible and should be harassed is the same as saying all Japanese people today are responsible for Pearl Harbor. The logic and justification used simply holds no water. Yet muslim bullies will quote the relationship of politics frequently to win over support.
As a result, parents and schools have to be on particular alert when muslim bullying presents itself. This is a kind of behavior that can turn into an ugly mob mentality quickly justified by twisted politics and errant thought about religion. It also breeds off of ignorance about culture as well. No surprise then, one of the broad approaches that needs to regularly be taken is cultural education. This includes not just teaching students and kids where countries are, but how their peoples live and the world religions that exist. A greater knowledge of cultural fact goes a long way toward diffusing ignorance in groups.
Secondly, where a muslim bully is present, it’s not enough to discipline that person. He or she needs to actually go through a re-education to understand the difference between history and discrimination. This is where local and regional muslim representation can help tremendously. By exposing such kids and people to muslim leadership, to confront their beliefs and mistaken ideas, many such bullies can be fundamentally turned from their problem behavior. This approach is critical because the realization that muslims can and are citizens of the same country is important towards stopping the bullying.
The victim of muslim bullying also needs to be support and taught that he or she has done nothing wrong. Whether muslim or not, how the person dresses or what religion is believe is no crime or societal disadvantage. This phase is also critical, especially with children, to reverse any thoughts from the bullying that could lead to a loss of self-confidence, fear of others, embarrassment, and similar. Children are highly impressionable and general bullying experiences as an aftereffect can last for years. Compound the factor that the attack is based on religion, and such treatment can produce permanent anger. Reversing the damage early can go a long way towards normalizing a child versus leaving him or her a victim.
Muslim bullying is particularly problematic because it deals with societal forces, religion and politics. It needs to be deal with via education, teaching, and training on a regular basis. Only through awareness does this sort of behavior die down permanently.