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By Alexandra Hennessy and Hannah Shraim
GSS Contributors

Two students. Between us, 690 miles, six states, and two religions. One tweet. And then, suddenly, one voice.

Last December, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump called for a complete and total shutdown of all Muslims from entering the United States.

It struck us — two high school students living hundreds of miles apart and not yet friends — as terribly wrong.

Alex is a Roman Catholic, and a junior at York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois. For Alex, Trump’s comment was a signal of rising Islamophobia in the country, and the need for strong interfaith dialogue to counter this dangerous rhetoric.

Hannah is Muslim, and a senior at Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland. For Hannah, Trump’s tweet marked a significant change in anti-Muslim bigotry — from an offhand comment by a publicity-loving celebrity to a movement that could one day become law and shut American Muslims like her out of American society.

And that’s why we’re launching #IStandWithMuslims.

Since the Paris attacks last Nov. 13, ThinkProgress, an American political news blog, has documented 65 personal assaults, protests, shootings, incidents of harassment, and attacks on Muslim places of worship.

Unfortunately, these aren’t just headlines in a newsroom — they reach right into our classrooms as well.

IStand_Infographic_Alex_DRAFTAccording to a November 2015 report entitled Mislabeled: The Impact of School Bullying and Discrimination on California Muslim Students, 55 percent of Muslim high school students in California have experienced religious-based bullying. Additionally, one in five Muslim students in California reported discrimination from a faculty member. No matter your faith or your politics, these acts are unacceptable.

Through the support of Global Student Square, an international student journalism network, we’ve teamed up to launch a social media campaign with the hashtag #IStandWithMuslims. The campaign is a response to the alarming rise in Islamophobia in the U.S. and around the world.

We seek to educate students on the true values of Islam from the voices of Muslim students themselves, and to foster dialogue about peace, unity, and mutual understanding. Our goals are to amplify the voices of Muslims and Non-Muslims alike.

Educating each other will be key. According to a recent Pew Research poll, though Muslims comprise 22 percent of the global population, they make up less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. Because Muslims are a religious minority, many non-Muslim students may not be aware of the problems and concerns their Muslims peers confront on an everyday basis.

What do we hope to show? That Muslims live contrary to the fear-mongering rhetoric surrounding us — they are ordinary, law-abiding, red-white-and-blue-wearing Americans that deserve the rights to acceptance and tolerance. 

Also, while other #IStandWithMuslims hashtag campaigns exist, we seek to amplify those other voices with a unique youth perspective.

What we want to say to Muslim students in Illinois, Maryland, and wherever our hashtag can reach is simple:

We are your friends.

We are your allies.

And together we can build an environment that welcomes all.

Click here to join our news challenge!

—Photo: Alexandra Hennessy of York Community High School in Elmhurst, Illinois, and students Hannah Shraim and Jahnavi Muralidharan, both of Northwest High School in Germantown, Maryland, kick off their #IStandWithMuslims campaign on Global Student Square and Instagram. “This is important not only to portray solidarity with Muslims, but also to stand against bigotry in all forms,” said Shraim. Photo credit: Jacob Shraim.

Note: Opinion columns published on GSS represent the views of the author only and not Global Student Square. For more information on the campaign, contact Alex and Hannah at IStandWithMuslims@gmail.com.

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