Trickle-Down Islamophobia In Texas Public Schools

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On Friday, a 12-year-old Fort Bend ISD student told reporters his teacher called him a terrorist because he’s Muslim. Which, unfortunately, isn’t even all that surprising now, especially when you consider the tenor of state and national politics — or the fact that Islamophobia keeps popping up around Texas public schools.

It wasn’t that long ago that a teacher at HISD’s Daily Elementary School appeared on local cable access TV saying things like, “Every normal human being in the world thinks that goat-fucking Muslims and boy-fucking Muslims are the evil of the world.” The teacher, who remains unapologetic, eventually resigned from the district.

Then there was the Lamar ISD high school teacher last year who gave students a bizarre lesson on “radical Islam,” describing the religion this way: “Islam is more of an ideology than a religion. It is also an ideology of war.” There was even a section about what to do if taken hostage by “radical Islamists.”

Consider also the small group that protested the opening of HISD’s new Arabic immersion school last August. Students walking into the building faced signs like “Everything I ever cared to know about Islam was taught to me by Muslims on 9-11-2001.” The very next month, police in Irving arrested Ahmed Mohamed after school officials mistook his clock for a bomb. Police walked the 14-year-old out of the school in handcuffs.

It was also Irving where armed protestors, some wearing masks and assault rifles, patrolled outside a mosque to, as one sign read, “Stop the Islamization of America.” It happened in a state where lawmakers instruct their staff to ask visitors on Texas Muslim Capitol Day “to renounce Islamic terrorist groups and publicly announce allegiance to America and our laws.” A state where officials compare Syrian refugees to a pit of venomous snakes and openly joke about nuking “the Muslim world.” A state whose senator, now a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination, says law enforcement should “patrol and secure Muslim neighborhoods.”

On Friday, the family of Waleed Abushaaban, a seventh-grader at First Colony Middle School, urged Fort Bend ISD officials not only to fire the teacher who they say called their son a terrorist, but also to begin offering religious sensitivity training to teachers and students. Abushaaban says his class was watching a movie last Thursday afternoon, and when he started laughing, “the teacher was like, ‘I wouldn’t be laughing if I was you…Because we all think you’re a terrorist.” Abushaaban says kids in class began to taunt him, saying things like, “You have bombs.”

While Fort Bend ISD officials on Friday called the incident an “isolated event," recent history makes it look like anything but. 

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