By Meghan Bobrowsky,
More than 600 students, activists and politicians gathered at the Capitol building in Sacramento on Monday, April 25 to talk about a worrisome increase in Islamophobia and lobby for legislation supporting Muslims nationwide.
One focus of discussion was the Safe Place to Learn Act (AB 2845), which would amend existing anti-bullying protections outlined in the California Education Code. The act would promote strategies and programs to address bullying of Muslim students or those who are perceived as Muslims; for example, Sikhs or students from the Middle East.
The bill was prompted by a 2015 CAIR report that found 55 percent of California’s Muslim students have been bullied in school–more than double the national average, according to CAIR.
That report and the Safe Place to Learn Act are more than just pieces of paper to 14-year-old Aya Hazzawi, a student from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.
Although Hazzawi said she has not been personally victimized because of her Islamic beliefs, she has a friend who was bullied for wearing her hijab to school.
Other bills supported by CAIR and discussed at Muslim Day include the Truth Act (AB 2792), which would require local law enforcement to decide in advance with city council or county supervisors how to report the arrest of an undocumented person to federal Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) authorities, and the Police Investigation, Transparency and Accountability Act (SB 1286), which would require public access to police records on use of force and misconduct, and force civilian review boards that oversee police to hold public hearings.
After registration and keynote speeches on the steps of the Capitol, participants were directed into the Capitol building to attend workshops and legislative briefings. Lunch was marked by a Dhurh, or noon prayer–the second of five prayers many Muslims perform each day–on the Capitol lawn.
Room 447 was packed for the legislative briefing on “Islamophobia: Impacts on California,” hosted by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Sikh Coalition and CAIR. During the briefing, 27-year-old Amandeep Singh shared his experience of being bullied and suspended during high school.
Muslim Day this year came amid a backdrop of heated rhetoric in the Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, including a call by Republican contender Donald Trump for the United States to temporarily ban the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims from entering the U.S.
“Education is one of the biggest things,” said Hazzawi, a member of Muslim Gamechangers Network–a four-month-old CAIR initiative to promote social justice among teens.
“To avoid all of this is knowledge. Knowledge is power.”
Editor’s Note: This story was written for Global Student Square, an international student journalism network at globalstudentsquare.org. Bobrowsky is a Global Student Square correspondent.