Islamophobia & bullying behaviour
Our definition of bullying behaviour at The Diana Award:
"repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make someone feel upset, uncomfortable and unsafe".
What is Islamophobia?
Islam is the name of the religion revealed to the prophet Mohammed who then recorded its teachings in the Quran. Muslims are the followers of Islam. Islamophobia is the hatred or fear of Muslims or of their politics or culture (Collins Dictionary 2020).
Common misconceptions of Islam include that anyone wearing a headscarf must be Muslim or that if you are from a particular country (for example, Pakistan), you must follow Islam. Muslims represent nearly 25% of the world’s religion and there is significant diversity within this religious group (Pew Research Center, 2015).
Why is there Islamophobic bullying behaviour in schools?
Bullying behaviour can sometimes be the result of seeing or hearing extreme views in extreme circumstances. For example, global calamities such as 9/11 and the Manchester bombings in 2017 have influenced some people’s perception of Islam. Islamic extremists who perpetrate these acts use violence and justify their cause under the pretence of Islam. However, it’s important to remember that this group is an extremely small minority of those who identify as Muslim.
Following these events, there has been a rise in hate crimes against Muslims. Perpetrators of hate crimes often perceive anything relating to Islam as a threat. We know this is unfair and it can compared to how, despite having roots in Christianity, members of the KKK are not a reflection of the beliefs of most Christians and most Christians would be appalled if they were viewed as the same.
In 2018, a record number of students were excluded from school for racist incidents (The Guardian, 2018). Religious hate crime rose by 40% in England and Wales in 2017/18 and more than half of these hate crimes were directed towards Muslims (The Independent, 2018). We know that young people can be influenced by the views of those around them, including parents, other adults and internet sources. If young people are surrounded by prejudiced opinions, they are more likely to pick up these views and act on them in school. It is therefore paramount that we promote acceptance, celebrate different identities within schools and educate young people to be an ‘Upstander’ to stereotypes and prejudice.
What can you do if you witness this type of behaviour?
You may hear harmful language in school, in the community and even at home which targets Muslims or another religion. Sometimes it can be hard to challenge this, especially if it’s from a friend or family member. Here are some helpful tips on how to challenge this harmful behaviour in a safe way:
1. If you feel comfortable and safe to do so, remind the person that it’s wrong to generalise an entire religion based on the actions of a few. Ask them how they would feel if they were judged based on the actions of others?
2. If you hear this directed at someone, make sure you offer your support to that person and let them know that you don’t agree with this behaviour and that they are not alone.
3. Remember, Islamophobia is a hate crime as defined under The Equality Act 2010 and you can report this to the police.
4. Try to spread positivity wherever you are - in school, at home and in your community. Be the change you want to see in the world. Positivity is the best counter for negativity and if we refuse to give prejudiced views attention and a platform, we can remove some of their influence.
5. Raise awareness of different identities and faiths to support Muslim students. If you are an Anti-Bullying Ambassador or staff member, you can use assemblies or workshops to raise awareness of different religions and challenge misconceptions.
6. Remember, it’s important to promote respect for different identities from a young age. If you are a primary school teacher, promote a culture of respect even if you do not witness examples of this behaviour in your pupils. This education will stay with them as they grow up and may encounter prejudiced views.
Finally, remember that being targeted for your faith is never acceptable and you deserve to feel safe and happy in school. This behaviour can be truly damaging and can affect someone for the rest of their life. Make sure that you are an Upstander to all forms of bullying behaviour. If you or someone you know is affected by this, please seek support from one of the organisations below:
Tell Mama (Supports victims of Anti-Muslim hate)
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger – Text ‘DA’ to 85258
Childline – Call on 0800 1111