10 ways to conquer anti-Muslim bullying

10 ways to conquer anti-Muslim bullying

Bullying is a pervasive problem in the United States. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, nearly a third of all students aged 12 - 18 reported having been bullied at school in 2007, some almost daily.

Many kids who are bullied become targets because of differences in physical appearance, ranging from variations in dress, weight, skin color, and disability. As well, children with low self-esteem are more likely to become victims.

In late March 2011, a Muslim third-grader was found hanging unconscious in his school in Louisville, KY. It was not the first time Muhammad had been bullied and abused.

The same week a Muslim girl from Dreyfus School in New York was beaten up; thrown on the ground,  had her headscarf pulled off, as she was repeatedly called a “terrorist,” “Muslim,” and a “bitch”. She was threatened to be stabbed with a knife unless she handed over her cell phone and all of her money. The victim suffered minor bruises and a cut lip. This was not the first time she was assaulted for being a Muslim.

While there are many excellent resources on and offline about how parents can handle bullying, there are some specific things you can do as the parent or loved one of a child being bullied. Here are some suggestions.

1. Recognize the signs that your child is being bullied

The majority of children who are being bullied do not tell their parents. This is why you need to be the one to notice the signs that your child may be experiencing this at school or even online. Some of these include:

  • Cuts, bruises or other injuries that are not easily explained
  • Torn clothing
  • Damaged belongings
  • Has few, if any, friends
  • Frequently complains of stomachaches, headaches, and other physical problems
  • Often has nightmares
  • Expresses a more-than-normal refusal to go to school
  • Expresses an outright fear of getting on the schoolbus, going to school, etc.
  • Is depressed and seems to cry and be upset a lot

2. Get as much information as possible to confirm that your child is being bullied

That means meeting with your child’s teacher, checking out what they are doing online (and yes, that does mean monitoring their Face book and email, if you already don’t), as well as meeting with school counselors and principals if necessary.  

3. If the problem is bullying, talk to your child in private

Depending on your child’s temperament, this may be on a quiet Sunday before the school week starts. For other kids, it may be during a trip to the park for a walk or to toss a Frisbee. Whenever you feel your child is most responsive to talking to you, choose that moment to bring up the issue. You can ask questions like:

  • How are you doing in school?
  • Do you like your teacher? Tell me about her
  • How are the kids in class?
  • Who would you say are your friends so far this year?
  • Are there any kids you don’t like? If so, why?
  • What do you like doing during recess?

Ideally, these can indirectly lead to the answers you are looking for. Or you may just ask directly, ‘is anyone hurting you at school? I  noticed (name any of the signs of bullying that you have)’

4. Contact the school and work out a solution with the teacher and/or the principal

This is key to ending the bullying. If the teacher does not respond and allows the bullying to continue, meet with the school principal. Discuss the problem and ask if the school has an anti-bullying program (many schools today do).

5. Comfort your child with Dua and mercy

This is key to rebuilding your child’s self-esteem, which is usually damaged by bullies’ incessant abuse. Part of a parent’s job is to be a kind of cushion that absorbs the shocks of the outside world for their kids. Offer words of hope and comfort. Together, make Dua that Allah guide not only you and your child in how to handle the bullying, but to also guide the bully him or herself to stop their behavior. Remind your child that doing the right thing is hard, but Allah is with the steadfast, and better days are ahead.

6. Share stories of the Prophets

Many of Allah’s Prophets were bullied through name-calling, mockery, and worse. Share these stories from the Quran with your child as examples of how the best of human beings responded to what your son or daughter is experiencing now. Emphasize that throughout their ordeal, these role models did not stoop to the level of their abusers. Rather, they retained their integrity and put their trust in Allah.

7. Help them be proud to be Muslim

The Islamophobia of the adult world is also found on the nation’s schoolyards, as the two examples mentioned at the beginning of this article indicate. It is not uncommon to find Muslim children bullied if they have a Muslim name, wear Hijab, or sport various other visible symbols of their Islamic identity.

This is why Muslim parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and older siblings must offer environments where being Muslim is not an excuse to be mistreated. This can mean not only taking children to Muslim events ranging from fundraising dinners to playgroups, but weekend school, outings with other Muslim families, as well as Halaqas. Being with other Muslims in an Islamic environment builds strength and identity.

8. Offer to do a presentation about some aspect of Islam to your child’s class

This is an excellent way to not only present some basic Islamic information to make Islam more familiar to your child’s classmates. It will also be a way for kids to become more familiar with you, their classmate’s parent and best ally. Some good presentation topics could be Eid, Hajj, Islam and the environment, Islam and Jesus, and Islamic science.

9. Become more involved in your child’s classroom and school life in general

While time is tight for everyone, especially parents who hold down a full-time job, there are ways to remain involved through the school’s parent-teacher organization or even specific projects in your child’s classroom. For younger kids, you can go into the class to read a story; if your son or daughter plays a sport, volunteer to either coach or if you don’t have time for that at all, attend as many games as possible to show your presence and support; volunteer in the cafeteria at lunch time; become a library monitor; bake or buy goodies on Eid to give out to the class.

The point is to show not only your child that you’re involved in their life, but to also offer a Muslim presence in the school, as well as a silent warning to bullies that you are watching.

10. Get involved in local anti-bullying efforts

Muslims are required to enjoin the good and forbid what is wrong. Bullying is an excellent example of a cause to get more involved in that fulfills this requirement of our faith. Doing so will benefit countless students today and tomorrow. If your child’s school doesn’t already have an anti-bullying policy, consider approaching the administration through the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) to work on one; offer to book speakers and presentations on the topic; support an organization working on this and offer your time, talent, and skills. 

Comments

Jazakum Allahu khairan! I was asked to give a talk about bullying and your article not only concurred with my initial ideas but also provided some excellent advice and offered much needed solutions. Perfect!

Location

Garland

i grew up in Queens, and I'm now 43. Back then they did not know if we were Muslims, but just referred to everyone tan has hindus. Bullying will always be there and its never going away. THere are different kinds of bullying: verbal, physical, and even the teachers are bullies sometimes. I went to martial arts class at age 12. It helped my self esteem as I knew I could defend myself. But the most important lesson I learned from my teacher was to run. Yes, he said, as soon as you sense conflict, like muggers on the street, the first course of action is to RUN. Don't fight, RUN. Avoid conflict whenever possible. This was surprising to me. Only fight when you have to, and beat them so bad that they are no longer a threat. Parents really need to be involved in school. Nowadays, you can email a complaint to the teacher. If no action is taken, follow up on the email with another email. Make sure to copy the principal. Teachers are different now too. Like the rest of the population, they don't really want to work. They will tell your kid to forget about it because they don't want to work. This is wrong. You have to escalate to the principal, keeping an email trail till the problem is resolved.

Location

queens ny

Masha Allah, this article taught me many new ways of handling the bully problem, kudos to the author. But there is one thing I want to share with everyone is that my parents, my imams/teachers in the Masjid and School, always taught me to NOT fight back when being bullied and I followed their advice for the majority of my young life until 7th grade. I had good strong friends but that didn't help either. I would be made fun of in front of my friends for not standing up and this would really hurt me so much that I will cry in front of the whole class. I did not fight back because of the respect I gave to my parents and teachers words and not because I was scared. In 7th grade I thought about the issue and realized that the technique did not work, so I changed my thinking and smacked the next bully in front of my teacher when he tried me. Believe me when I say, I have not had an incident since then and I am 27 with 2 kids now, I have not backed off a fight since then and bullies and others think twice before trying to test me. I have told myself that I will teach my children to hit back the person that hits you for no reason as sometimes the teachers or authority figures are not just in their punishments either. If the teacher is not just, I will confront the teacher and the principal as I have experienced firsthand many teachers who are not just and take on the side of the students of their own race or religion. We don't have the time to see if the authority figure is just becasue the bullying will continue if no one does anything. Teaching my kid to fight back gives the bully what he deserves and the message to the rest that want to attack Muslims to think twice. This technique actually made me more confident about myself, gave me more trust on myself, gave me satisfaction, and also earned me respect from the tough crowds. First - Teach your kids to not get into conversations and arguments with stupid ignorant kids who most likely have stupid ignorant parents that are islamophobic. But if they do, tell them to brush off ignorant statements from the bully and ignore him/her as much as they can as this would make the bully feel weak and stupid as his technique is not producing results. It also puts a little bit of fear in the bully's heart as to not knowing what your kid might do to him/her if pushed. Second - Tell your kids to inform the teacher. Third - If the bully lays hand on your precious child, your child should warn the bully to stop harassing them or not to touch them ever again and inform the teacher. But if the bully lays his/her hand again, your child should respond back with an ass kicking as it is the child's right to protect him/herself. When you are called by the school, you can always respond that your child was struck 1st, and your child warned the bully to stop after being struck 1st. Teachers did not respond quick enough, my child was attacked a 2nd time and my child responded in self defense. You should also give a good tongue whooping to the teacher and the principal for not responding quick enough and always protect and take the side of your kid in front of them as this is very important. My father did this one time when handling a situation and it really made me put a lot of trust in my father. This is not against Islam as Islam teaches us to confront injustice and this situation that we are facing in the US as well as many parts of the world is INJUSTICE. Teach and raise our kids to be strong as they are the inheritors of this unjust world, we will not always be there to protect them.

Location

Brooklyn, NY

if the early muslims do not have umar ibn atob at their sides, the ummah would have been bullish and silent,and we will not enjoy the deen. so, they should be trained to be self defense and at the same easy quite kids with high morality. if any one cross their way they can now resist

Location

NY

ASA, brother we have to stop being passive. this advice is the same advice you get in the masjids by leaders who dont know what to do about stopping the bullying except run to the media. okay maybe i shouldnt say its bad advice, but you have to change the *child*. make him the kind of kid that wont be bullied. teach him to be tough, put him in martial arts, enroll him in sports where he will have tough friends who wont let him get bullied. education doesnt work on these american kids. racism, it is the American way. you think a talk to the class will change those other kids? no way, they learn this from there own parents. inshallah if they know that lil Abdul or Mustafa can rip their heads off, they will leave him alone.my children been doing martial arts, boxing, and fencing there whole life, and they have not been bullied to this day. you can't change the kids in the community, this is America, and every generation has permission to hate a different group of people. but make your children bully-proof by teaching them to stand up for them self and you dont have to worry about any of that, inshallah.

Location

sacramento ca

I'm disappointed you did not mention martial arts. Many prophets fought their enemies by hand. There are all kinds of schools throughout the country were youngsters can learn how to avoid being hurt when attacked. It's okay to defend yourself. There is nothing violent about confronting fear and redirecting someone's attack back at them. My children have been in martial arts and have quickly turned bullies into sissies.

Location

Evanston

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