By Meghan Bobrowsky
SACRAMENTO — More than 600 students, activists and politicians gathered at the California state Capitol Building in Sacramento on Monday to talk about a worrisome increase in Islamophobia and lobby for legislation supporting Muslims nationwide.
The 5th annual Muslim Day at the Capitol, sponsored by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, drew elementary through high school students from all over California.
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 to promote strategies and programs to address bullying of students who are Muslim or those who are perceived as Muslims, for example, Sikhs, or students who are from the Middle East.
The bill was triggered by a 2015 report by CAIR that found 55 percent of California Muslim students have been bullied in school. The figure is more than twice as high as the national average, according to CAIR.
That report and the Safe Place to Learn Act are more than just paper to 14-year-old Aya Hazzawi, a student from Rancho Cucamonga.
While Hazzawi said that she has not been personally victimized because of her Islamic beliefs, she knows of a friend who was bullied for wearing her hijab to school:
Other bills that are being supported by CAIR and were discussed at Muslim Day included 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 speakers on the steps of the Capitol, participants were directed into the Capitol building where they attended workshops and legislative briefings. Lunch was marked by a dhurh (noon prayer) on the Capitol lawn.
Room 447 was packed for the legislative briefing on “Islamophobia: Impacts on California,” put on by the Asian Americans Advancing Justice, the Sikh Coalition and CAIR, where 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 GOP and Democratic presidential primaries, including a call by Republican contender Donald Trump for a ban on travel by the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims to the United States.
“Education is one of the biggest things,” said Hazzawi, who is 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.”
—Story, photo and videos by Meghan Bobrowsky. Featured photo: Participants in the annual Muslim Day at the Capitol gather for dhurh, the second of five daily prayers in Islam.
Bobrowsky is a junior at Davis Senior High School and an editor for BlueDevilHUB.com, the award-winning student-run news website. Contact Meghan at firstname.lastname@example.org.