Muslim students express sadness over Islamophobic threats

Administration hopes to foster safe school environment


Photo illustration by Grace Farley

Marta Hill and Dani Orloff

As junior Ridwan Aden prepared to leave for school April 3, she said she was instructed to be cautious of her surroundings, as opposed to being told to enjoy her day.

“This morning my mom said, ‘stay safe, go to school, come straight home and don’t talk to anybody. If a car pulls up next to you just steer clear of them.’ It’s just frustrating that she has to tell me this,” Aden said.

According to the Washington Post, anonymous letters sent in the United Kingdom declared April 3 to be “Punish a Muslim Day” and the movement spread internationally via social media platforms, provoking fear, rage and unity.

Junior Adna Mohamud said she believes the “Punish a Muslim Day” letters have generated a sadistic game.

“If you look at the poster, it is like a game; it has a point system and there is even a prize,” Mohamud said.

According to Mohamud, her parents also advised her to be more conscious of those around her.

“My parents just told me, ‘be careful at school, be careful with your surroundings,’” Mohamud said. “Today my mom was watching me to make sure I got on the bus safely, I guess we are all in some state of fear.”

Aden said she felt angered that so many promoted this hateful movement.

“For some reason it hasn’t scared me, but it has made me angry,” Aden said. “It’s made me angry to see what is going on and how next time it could be someone that I know, and it makes people around me scared. That shouldn’t be happening.”

Principal Scott Meyers said that ultimately it is up to the students to make the school a place where this type of behavior does not exist.

“You can have regulations and policies, but sometimes they are only as good as what students want to live by,” Meyers said. “When I, as a principal, hear people say, ‘that’s not our school’ or ‘I really hope that doesn’t happen here because that’s not who we are,’ that means a lot to me because that’s the first step to explaining how do we defend against future situations.”

Meyers said he frequently witnesses Park students and teachers practicing being an upstander, a value of the Oriole Code, and showing support for members of the community during difficult times.

“We have a great history of students notifying us if they notice something that’s a concern,” Meyers said. “Where there’s a little more space for decision making by individuals, that’s where I want to enlist our student office staff and our teachers to have a watchful eye out there too to make sure there can be an intervention quickly, so it’s not something that is carried on throughout a day.”

According to Mohamud, on account of these islamophobic threats, throughout the school day she received support from her peers and did not think her safety was in jeopardy.

“Coming to school, I feel pretty safe,” Mohamud said. “I can’t imagine something happening at school because I am with people who don’t have these views.”

Aden said members, primarily of the Muslim community, are also using social media to combat this widespread discrimination.

“Most of the people are Muslim people just warning their brothers and sisters, like ‘hey watch out, stay safe,’” Aden said. “That shouldn’t be what people are talking about. Being in fear shouldn’t be the reality.”

Internationally, people have responded with the spreading of “Love a Muslim Day,” which urges citizens to repay Muslims for their contributions to society through acts of kindness, according to BBC.

According to Meyers, there are many resources available if a student does encounter any forms of hate or harassment.

“Hate speech is a crime. If indeed we have that, the student office is the best place to report because then we have access to a resource officer,” Meyers said. “We also have access to student mediation services if they make sense in a certain scenario.”

 Aden said due to recent acts of prejudice and misconduct all around the world, she does not view the school environment as a safe zone.   

“With all the gun violence and everything, and last year the girl who got her hijab pulled off, it’s not a true safe space,” Aden said. “It seems like everyone is just having more and more anger for absolutely no reason. I see this as something that could potentially lead to something even worse.”

Despite this, Aden said April 3 seemed no different from an ordinary school day.

“School is not as safe as it is supposed to be, but no, I didn’t feel overly threatened today,” Aden said.

Meyers said he hopes members of the Park community recognize the value of coming together to practice district values.  

“As we see things in the nation, or on other campuses, that challenge who we are as a school, I hope the school realizes that’s not the school we are,” Meyers said. “We will continue to create spaces for students to talk about that, to help educate each other. Whenever possible, I hope that our student voices are shared with each other because that’s where the true empowerment comes from.”