Promoting cross-cultural understanding, an American Muslim high school student has been awarded the 2015 Princeton Race Relations prize for his outstanding work to advance the cause of race relations in New Jersey.
“To promote cross-cultural understanding, and raise awareness for a dangerous trend that has unfortunately become ubiquitous among Muslim youth communities, I completed a series of three short stories that presented the negative psychological effects of bullying on post 9/11 Muslim-American youth,” Adam Mohsen-Breen, of Moorestown Friends School, told Burlington County Times on Friday, April 10.
The 17-year-old student, Mohsen-Breen, received the 2015 Princeton Race Relations certificate of recognition for his series of three self-written and illustrated children’s books.
“These books detailed common bullying experiences of post-9/11 Muslim-American youth, and presented the specific strategies that my research found to be most effective in preventing this type of bullying,” Mohsen-Breen said.
“The stories I heard in focus groups, coupled with my own childhood experiences, formed the foundation of my children’s books.”
Focusing on the American Muslim community, Mohsen-Breen selected a common problem that faces minorities in the US.
“I felt a responsibility to bring a greater understanding of problems facing Muslim-American youth, especially given the unprecedented level of media bias against Muslims that Americans are exposed to every day,” Mohsen-Breen said.
Since the 9/11 attacks, US Muslims, estimated between 6-8 million, have complained of discrimination and stereotyping in their communities due to their Islamic attire or identities.
Additionally, a Pew Research Center study, Public Remains Conflicted Over Islam, has revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A Gallup poll also found that the majority of US Muslims are patriotic and loyal to their country and are optimistic about their future.
Another Economist/YouGov poll found that a 73 percent of Americans believe that US Muslims are victims of discrimination amid recent attacks against the community.
The son of an Egyptian mother and Cuban father aims to change the younger generation’s perception of American Muslims by promoting positive attitude towards Muslim students.
The published final copy of the Mohsen-Breen’s three book series has been purchased by his school library, and a set remains in his school classroom.
Besides publishing books, Mohsen-Beer aims to introduce Muslim awareness into the school’s teaching curriculum.
“Through the presentation to my high school, I was able to educate my entire audience on the biased media perception of Islam, and familiarize my community with effective methods for preventing the daily micro-aggressions that occur in classroom settings,” he said.
“In addition, I was able to educate many of my school’s faculty members on the issue of bullying in classroom settings; an issue that many teachers had not previously recognized the severity of,” Mohsen-Beer added.
While he believes Islam “at its core” is a nonviolent religion, “the most important thing is trying to get kids comfortable with their Muslim classmates.”
Founded in 2003 by Henry Von Kohorn, of the class of 1966, the Princeton Prize in Race Relation grants the first place winner an award of $1,000 dollars.
“There’s national oversight but we like our local committees to do the work,” Von Kohorn said.
“What we hope is that we can recognize kids who’ve made a difference furthering the cause of race relations.”