The criminalization of Muslim students must end

Ahmed Mohamed’s treatment by teachers and police show us the extent to which Islamophobia has spread to schools

September 17, 2015
by Deepa Iyer, for Aljazeera America

 

The experience of Ahmed Mohamed — a Sudanese Muslim high school freshman who was suspended and arrested in Irving, Texas, after his teachers and administrators believed that a clock he made was a bomb — has caught America’s attention. Even President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg weighed in, inviting Mohamed to the White House and Facebook, respectively. But these gestures, as sincere as they are, cannot by themselves counteract the reasons the incident happened in the first place: the pervasiveness of anti-Muslim bias in our country and the discriminatory application of school discipline policies against brown, Muslim and immigrant students.

To his teachers and school administrators, Mohamed’s faith and name made him an immediate suspect capable of endangering the safety of his fellow students. This is not a new phenomenon. During the 14 years since 9/11, young people who are South Asian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Arab have reported that they often feel unsafe and unwelcome in their schools because of harassment and bullying related to their faith, national origin or immigration status. According to “Growing in Faith” (PDF), a report from the Coalition of American-Islamic Relations, 50 percent of American Muslim students in California reported “being subjected to mean comments and rumors about them because of their religion.” (Reporting incidents to an adult such as a teacher or principal had mixed results, with 35 percent saying that doing so “never,” “rarely” or “sometimes” helped.) “Go Home, Terrorist” (PDF), a 2014 report published by the Sikh Coalition found that more than 50 percent of Sikh students report being bullied. The number rose to 67 percent for Sikh youths who wear turbans.

Such bullying and harassment in schools take place in a broader context. Discriminatory media narratives and government programs reinforce public opinions that individuals who are Muslim or perceived to be Muslim are worthy of suspicion. Federal policies such as surveillance, racial mapping and CVE (countering violent extremism), robustly enforced under the Obama administration, contribute to this suspicion-filled environment — one in which a boy named Ahmed Mohamed is perceived as a terrorist rather than as a curious student of science and technology.

This rush to judgment occurs in the educational system as well, mainly because of the enforcement of zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that have long targeted black, Native American and Latino students. The Advancement Project reports that more than 70 percent of students referred to police are Latino or black. Students report that administrators and safety officers treat minor infractions as cause for suspensions, detentions, expulsions and even arrests. One could hardly label Mohamed’s actions as offenses or infractions. Yet he had to face six police officers and the principal who interrogated him about was called his hoax bomb. He was searched and handcuffed. He was suspended from school for three days. He was taken to a juvenile detention center, where he had a mug shot taken, was fingerprinted and then searched again. The following day, the school sent parents a letter about the incident and asked that any suspicious activity be reported, essentially further endorsing a culture of fear rather than dismantling it.

Read the complete article in Al Jezeera America.

 

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October 24, 2019

Reflections from Philanthropy Forward's First Cohort

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change is a CEO fellowship program created by Neighborhood Funders Group and the Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The program's first cohort started in October 2018 in furtherance of building and advancing a shared vision for the future of philanthropy.

Hear perspectives from members of the first cohort as they reflect in this video on their work together as strategic thought partners, addressing philanthropy's most challenging issues and aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

2018 - 2019 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid with individual photos of each of the 20 members of Philanthropy Forward's 2018-2918 cohort..

Click here for participant bios

  • Dimple Abichandani, General Service Foundation
  • Sharon Alpert, Nathan Cummings Foundation
  • Elizabeth Barajas-Roman, Solidago Foundation
  • Ned Calonge, The Colorado Trust
  • Irene Cooper-Basch, Victoria Foundation
  • Farhad A. Ebrahimi, The Chorus Foundation
  • Nicky Goren, Meyer Foundation
  • Justin Maxson, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation
  • Joan Minieri, Unitarian Universalist Veatch Program at Shelter Rock
  • Maria Mottola, New York Foundation
  • Mike Pratt, Scherman Foundation
  • Jocelyn Sargent, Hyams Foundation
  • Pamela Shifman, NoVo Foundation
  • Starsky D. Wilson, Deaconess Foundation
  • Steve Patrick, Aspen Institute Forum for Community solutions
  • Dennis Quirin, Raikes Foundation
September 10, 2019

For Love of Humankind: A Call to Action for Southern Philanthropy

Justin Maxson, Executive Director of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, calls on fellow funding organizations based in the South to respond to the federal government's anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies with three concrete actions. This post was originally published here on the foundation's website.

Justin was part of the first Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship cohort, a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, which strives to help people and places move out of poverty and achieve greater social and economic justice, is a member of NFG.


 

Justin MaxsonWe are issuing a clarion call to Southern philanthropic organizations to respond to the manic drumbeat of anti-immigrant rhetoric and cruelty coming from the White House. This month began with a mass shooting targeting the Latinx community. Days later, massive raids tore apart hundreds of families and destabilized Mississippi communities but levied no consequences for the corporate leadership that lures vulnerable people to work in grueling, dangerous conditions. It is astounding that since those events, with the resulting fear and trauma still reverberating through immigrant communities across America, the administration has: 

  • repeated its intention to end birthright citizenship, a 14th Amendment guarantee that babies born on American soil are citizens. 
  • attempted to terminate the Flores Agreement, which sets standards for the care of children in custody. This would allow the administration to detain migrant families indefinitely in facilities where children are dying of influenza, yet flu shots are not administrated, where children are sexually assaulted, where soap, toothbrushes, human contact and play are not standard, and where breastfeeding babies are taken from their mothers. Child separation is known to cause permanent psychological trauma and brain damage.
  • announced changes to the so-called “public charge rule” to make it harder for legal immigrants to secure citizenship if they use public assistance. As our partners at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argue, this change would cause many to “forgo assistance altogether, resulting in more economic insecurity and hardship, with long-term negative consequences, particularly for children.” Further, the decision “rests on the erroneous assumption that immigrants currently of modest means are harmful to our nation and our economy, devaluing their work and contributions and discounting the upward mobility immigrant families demonstrate.”

There was also a recent effort to effectively end asylum altogether at the southern border. And despite the Supreme Court ruling blocking the citizenship question from the 2020 census, advocates believe the debate will depress response rates. As we wrote earlier this month, this administration’s animus against immigrants and increasingly aggressive ICE actions are compounding the devastating effects on communities across the country. 

Why Southern philanthropy? 

An analysis of recent grantmaking by the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy found our region has deportation rates five times higher than the rest of the country, yet Southern pro-immigrant organizations receive paltry philanthropic funding. Barely one percent of all money granted by the 1,000 largest foundations benefits immigrants and refugees, and even that money doesn’t go to state and local groups that are accountable to grassroots and immigrant communities. Organizations in Southern states receive less than half of the state and local funding of California, New York and Illinois. 

Where to begin? 

Speak up. As Desmund Tutu taught us, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Use your institutional voice to influence decisionmakers.

Examine your foundation’s policies. Find out if your endowment is invested in private detention centers. Consider how supporting organizing, power building and policy advocacy could advance your mission. NCRP has more recommendations in its report.

Give generously. Our partners at Hispanics in Philanthropy have curated a list of organizations helping the families affected by the raids across Mississippi. Our partners at Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees have compiled a list of ways to help, from rapid response grants to long-term strategies. 

Many of the Babcock Foundation’s grantee partners are doing more and more immediate protection work, stretching themselves thin and often putting themselves at risk. They are keeping families intact in the short term while building power for the long term, so history will stop repeating: 

If you know of more resources, please share them. If you’d like to learn more about the organizations on the ground across the South – or think about ways we can do more together – contact us. We are always looking to learn and act in alignment with our fellow funders toward a shared vision of a strong, safe, welcoming and equitable region. 

Activist Jane Addams said, “The good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain until it is secured for all of us.” Regardless of a foundation’s mission, abject cruelty surely undermines it. It also undermines the most basic tenet of philanthropy, which literally means “love for humankind.” We see no love in this administration. It’s up to all of us to spread it.