Two parents were trying to relocate to Orlando, inquiring about educational opportunities for their children at Ibn Seena Academy, an Islamic school serving students in Pre-K through eighth grade.
Rehannah Hemmali, the principal, said they told her their children did not feel accepted in public schools in Port Charlotte, a Southwest Florida city 159 miles away.
Hemmali said the students felt isolated. Other students ridiculed their dress and their food.
“They are concerned with raising their children in an environment that they do not always feel welcome,” said Hemmali in a phone interview. “They want to make a change for their child.”
Educators say Islamic schools provide a safe place for students who face bullying and hate crimes. They also push back against criticism that students “live in a bubble” at the schools. On the contrary, they argue, the schools emphasize strong academics and prepare students to succeed in society with an understanding of all faiths and cultures.
Principals, parents and educational experts believe Muslim schools help children feel safer and freer from bullying. They expressed concerns about those schools becoming the targets of violence and hate crimes because of the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric and hate crimes.
The FBI’s most recent hate crime report showed 22.2 percent were anti-Islamic, up from 12.8 percent in 2012. Further, the Southern Poverty Law Center reported the number of anti-Muslim groups is growing, from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016.
In a new report, The Council on American-Islamic Relations stated in 2016, there were “209 incidents of anti-Muslim bias, including harassment, intimidation, and violence targeting students.” According to a CAIR 2015 report, “55 percent of Muslim students aged (11 to 18) reported being subject to some form of bullying because of their faith.”
“Parents are always on edge,” said Jameer Abass, principal of the Muslim Academy of Greater Orlando, which serves 261 students from Pre-K to eighth grade. “We spend a lot of money on surveillance cameras. I hired an armed security guard to monitor all of our gates.” Continue Reading →