Imagine being afraid to rummage in your backpack on a crowded bus, or worrying about how to explain your holidays to your classmates, or wondering if your friends are whispering about your head scarf — and then imagine trying to keep your focus on your schoolwork.
These anxieties, and many more, are all too real for many Muslim American students, explains Taymullah Abdur-Rahman, the Harvard Chaplain for the Harvard Islamic Society. As political leaders grapple with how to handle the threat that ISIS and other terror groups pose to the United States, Muslim American children, teenagers, and young adults are left to contend with that confusion and fear in their everyday lives.
Educators, always working to create inclusive spaces, can serve as important allies in encouraging empathy and modeling support for Muslim young people — and the peers of those Muslim students can do the same.
Students of any appearance and any background can identify as Muslim, says Abdur-Rahman, so educators should “just assume there’s always a Muslim in the room.” The challenges Muslim students face may not be apparent to their teachers and friends, however. They might have a constant internal dialogue about how to handle social situations with non-Muslim peers, and concern over how classmates perceive them might make them wonder how best to demonstrate their civic integrity. And too many have encountered upfront discrimination.
To counteract these anxieties and prejudices, Abdur-Rahman offers five tips for educators, drawn from the Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that works with college students to promote interfaith cooperation and leadership.
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