52% of Americans and 48% of Canadians say the West does not respect Muslim societies, shows a data reported in 2011. Photo by Adam Jones and labeled for reuse under the public domain.
Charter Oak High School

Stop the hate

Islamophobia (N.): dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims, especially as a political force.

Fourteen-year-old Tala Qasqas, sophomore, struggles every school day as a girl who is trying to receive an education, but finds it conflicting when people, like her peers, point and stare. Her peers are allowed to poke fun at cultural differences, and there are seldom repercussions for the perpetrator.

Qasqas said that she has received comments, such as, “Go back to your own country,” when in fact she was born here in the United States. Other comments have been directed towards her hijab, a veil worn by traditional Muslims for modesty: “We know what you’re hiding in there, towel head,” in regards to her hijab, a veil traditional worn by Muslim women as symbol of dignity and modesty. But the worst is almost always, “Tell your family to stop bombing everyone.” Tala finds it hard to live in a country where freedom of religion is a constitutional right, yet many do not allow her religious freedom.

“Islam does not condone terrorism, yet we are still grouped with people who are killers,” she said.

Recently, Qasqas was racially profiled and was verbally demeaned by a peer, who spoke of her disrespectfully while on her way to class. By then, she did not let him finish his racist comments. Instead, she spoke up for herself, and instead of being praised for her act of confidence, her character was called into question by a faculty member. Instead of coming to Qasqas’ aide, the faculty member insisted on her going to the office because they believed Qasqas to be disruptive. Instead, Qasqas went on her way because she did not feel she was not in the wrong for defending herself.

Since the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, attacks upon Muslim women has tripled, according to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Fifty-two percent of Muslim students in California, in a 2014 survey administered by the Council on American Islamic Relations, reported being the targets of verbal abuse and insults.

Donald Trump’s stance on Islamophobia has added to this bad image. His propositions of banning Muslims, the suggestion of establishing a possible database for Muslims and the idea of requiring American Muslims to carry special identification cards goes against the progression we, as a nation, have worked so hard to overcome.

“It makes me mad that someone like [a running candidate] has so much hatred towards a religion. Just because of what we wear and worship doesn’t mean we are terrorists. I feel disgusted,” said Yasmine Bitar, junior and co-president of the Middle Eastern Unity Club.

Qasqas is also a part of the Middle Eastern Unity Club. At this time, the co-presidents Bitar and Alison Ghafari, their adviser Mrs. Margo Wilcox, and the rest of the club are planning on doing fundraisers for the Middle East, specifically Syrian refugees. This speaks to Charter Oak’s tradition of inclusivity that many of the students and faculty still try to uphold.