By Susan Schwartz, TMO
One of the primary social problems confronting the United States is the well organized and well financed industry of Islamophobia. At a time when the nation should be united, Islamophobia is the great divider. While many groups have been and are active in combating this pernicious industry, the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) must be considered in the forefront. Islamophobia is hate, and hate acts like a malignancy.
MPAC was founded in 1988 as a 501 (c) (3) organization devoted to the establishment of a vibrant Muslim American community that would â€œenrich American Society through promoting the Islamic values of mercy, justice, peace, human dignity, freedom and equality for allâ€. MPAC is well equipped to deal with hate speech and hate acts and to enlighten the community.
MPAC has held many educational forums dealing with timely subjects. This past Saturday a forum entitled: Stand up Against Bullying was held in the Ehsan Center in Canoga Park, Ca. The forum was a training session for parents that began with the question: â€œWhat would you do if your child was being bullied?â€
Ms Holly Priebe-Diaz an Intervention Coordinator representing the Human Relations, Diversity, and Equity Department of the Los Angeles Unified School District was the speaker.
Ms Priebe-Diaz gave an excellent presentation of bullying: its definition, its manifestations, the public schoolâ€™s responsibilities to identify bullying and to counsel, and of course possible resolutions. Ms Priebe-Diaz is obviously well qualified to speak on the topic and her presentation was informal yet informative and thought provoking. The audience participated throughout the discussion.
Herewith some of her observations. Bullying, she said, can be a form of hate. â€œWe have to educate law enforcementâ€. Ms Priebe-Diaz told her audience we have to educate more about hate. While it is understandably hard to prove an attitude, we can look at behavior. â€œWhen we find a child who is a bully, we re-educate him.â€
The child says â€œMy heart hurtsâ€, and the adult replies â€œLet me help you.â€
Not surprisingly, young boys who are school bullies also become adult offenders who are guilty of crimes of violence.
To combat this, the school gives a child a community project; the relevant school personnel dialogue about the situation, and different cultures are studied. â€œThere is a lot of ignoranceâ€ Ms Priebe-Diaz told the attendants.
She continued by saying that 30% of hate crimes are committed by kids. Where, she asked rhetorically, do these children learn hate. The obvious answer is from home. The Internet has given the community a new word: cyberbullying as the bully – always present in society – has now moved into cyber space.
Ms Priebe-Diaz cited California law that makes certain classes of school children protected. They are protected against real or perceived acts of hostility. There are six protected categories: race, color, national origin, mental or physical disability, gender identification (how one perceives oneâ€™s self), and ethnicity.
While she cautioned parents to have rules – for example having a computer in a central room rather than in a childâ€™s bedroom – she also acknowledged that for every restriction a child may find a way around it.
She made a clear distinction between tattling and helping the victim of a bully. The foundation of that distinction was the question â€œIs someone being hurt?â€
No one can be a bystander in the matter of bullying. While urging parents to work through the school counseling office and not to take matters into their own hands, involvement is key.
Ms Priebe-Diaz gave suggestions for children who have been bullied such as â€œDonâ€™t let the bully see you afraidâ€ and â€œavoid areas where certain children congregateâ€ to name but two.
The district uses progressive punishment with bullies beginning with (if the bullying continues) suspension, then expulsion, and last, arrest.
â€œI have learned so much about the subjectâ€ said one young mother at the conclusion of the forum.
Readers interested in learning more about MPAC and its work may contact MPAC at: www.mpac.org. Ms Priebe-Diaz may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.