Muslim families in America are under tremendous pressure and fearful after a year of dramatic increases in hateful anti-Muslim incidents.
In the wake of the murder of 17-year-old Nabra Hussein in Virginia, Penn GSE’s Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher says school leaders must recognize that they cannot continue to ignore this problem and hope it goes away. School leaders should spend their summer planning for how they can support and care for students from Muslim communities when schools reopen in the fall.
Here are a few suggestions for where they can start:
- Rethink professional development. Many teachers feel they are not prepared to talk about how hateful acts in the community affect their classrooms. Teachers need to be trained in how to start and handle these conversations. Make that the priority for professional development in the coming year, while acknowledging a training session is only the beginning of the needed work. Suggest teachers and administrators read “We Too Sing America: South Asian, Arab, Muslim, and Sikh Immigrants Shape Our Multiracial Future” by Deepa Iyer. Emphasize that Muslims are not a monolithic group, and addressing “Muslim issues” means paying attention to the vast diversity within and across Muslim communities. Ultimately, all of your students will be better served.
- When school starts, acknowledge society is struggling because of racism, xenophobia, and Islamophobia. Have an assembly to open up a school-wide conversation, which will be continued in individual classrooms, building on the skills teachers are learning. Use these as opportunities to discuss and connect with other social justice issues.
- Map out the sustained action your school can take throughout the year. How can you make sure teachers are continually reflecting on these questions, and engaging students in them? How can you reach out to families to build understanding and connections with people? Make this part of the curriculum.
About Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher
— She has written extensively about Islamophobia and the discrimination Muslim students and immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries can face in the United States. She co-created a resource for teachers helping students to confront anti-Muslim bullying in classrooms, and consulted for MTV on the issue.
Dr. Ameena Ghaffar-Kucher
— She can discuss what life in the United States is actually like for Muslim immigrants, and migrants from predominantly Muslim countries.
— She has worked extensively in migrant communities in the U.S. and is currently studying civic engagement among American youth from Muslim immigrant communities in the U.S.
— She is the Associate Director of the International Educational Development Program at Penn GSE.