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September 18, 2015 6

What Ahmed Mohamed Can Teach Us About Having ‘A Wrong Impression’

Ahmed MohamedOn Mon­day, Ahmed Mohamed, a four­teen year old high school fresh­man with a tal­ent for tin­ker­ing and tech­nol­ogy, brought a home­made dig­i­tal clock he con­structed to school to show his teach­ers. His engi­neer­ing teacher was impressed but later in the day when it beeped dur­ing Eng­lish class, Ahmed’s trou­bles began. He showed the device to his Eng­lish teacher who noti­fied school offi­cials who then noti­fied the police. “She thought it was a threat to her,” Ahmed said, “so it was really sad that she took a wrong impres­sion of it.”

The clock was con­fis­cated and Ahmed was sus­pended from school for three days. After being ques­tioned at school by police offi­cers, Ahmed was put into hand­cuffs and brought to a juve­nile deten­tion cen­ter where he was fin­ger­printed and had his mug shot taken. Since that time, the charges have been dropped.

Ahmed’s story quickly pre­cip­i­tated a national out­cry on social media where mes­sages of sup­port came from Mark Zucker­berg, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton and Pres­i­dent Obama, who extended a spe­cial invi­ta­tion to Ahmed to the White House for Astron­omy Night in Octo­ber. White House press sec­re­tary Josh Earnest said, “This episode is a good illus­tra­tion of how per­ni­cious stereo­types can pre­vent even good-hearted peo­ple who have ded­i­cated their lives to edu­cat­ing young peo­ple from doing the good work that they set out to do.” Con­versely, Irv­ing Police Chief Boyd said this mat­ter was not caused by stereo­types and “would have been the same regard­less” of his religion.

While we were not on the ground at MacArthur High School on Mon­day, we acknowl­edge that school secu­rity is crit­i­cal and school vio­lence is always on the minds of school staff, whose job it is to remain vig­i­lant. In addi­tion, this inci­dent raises ques­tions about stereo­types and the pos­si­bil­ity of implicit bias. It is also very impor­tant that school staff get to know stu­dents to pre­vent mak­ing assump­tions or form­ing “wrong impres­sions,” as Ahmed aptly put it. He is obvi­ously a young per­son who loves tech­nol­ogy and mak­ing things. The ques­tion for us to pon­der is: Are all stu­dents regarded as threat­en­ing because they make a quirky clock or can a student’s gen­der, reli­gion and national ori­gin be a fac­tor in our own eval­u­a­tion of what feels threatening?

The school year in Irv­ing began on August 24 so this week marks the fourth week of school, ample time to see what every­one else is see­ing now—that Ahmed appears to be a bright and inquis­i­tive teenager with a pas­sion for STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing and Math­e­mat­ics). He nobly stated that he wants to use this moment to “try my best not just to help me but to help every other kid in the entire world that has a prob­lem like this.” He’s talk­ing about stereo­typ­ing, and he’s right.

Whether this was a sit­u­a­tion of mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, bias or some­thing else, edu­ca­tors should be mind­ful that con­text is impor­tant. Mus­lims are reg­u­larly marked by the stereo­type of “ter­ror­ist” which has impli­ca­tions for how wel­come or unwel­come Mus­lims often feel in their com­mu­ni­ties and on school cam­puses. For edu­ca­tors com­mit­ted to their role as lead­ers in build­ing respect­ful learn­ing envi­ron­ments , com­bat­ing bias and proac­tively teach­ing about race and racism, this con­text should be con­sid­ered and man­aged in a way that meets mul­ti­ple goals: safety and inclusion.

As we start the new school year, Ahmed’s story is an impor­tant reminder to explic­itly teach about stereo­types, bias and dis­crim­i­na­tion, that uncon­scious bias can seep into all of our interactions—both large and small and that implicit bias can shape our assump­tions and expec­ta­tions about oth­ers. Most impor­tantly, cre­at­ing an anti-bias learn­ing envi­ron­ment and inte­grat­ing cul­tur­ally respon­sive teach­ing prac­tices goes a long way toward assist­ing edu­ca­tors in know­ing their stu­dents and treat­ing them with respect.

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September 11, 2015 22

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller promotes anti-refugee rhetoric

“Immi­gra­tion Jihad” is a newly minted term by anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller to describe the cur­rent refugee cri­sis in Europe, where thou­sands of refugees are try­ing to find a safe haven for their fam­i­lies away from the war-torn Mid­dle East.

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

Anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller

As wrench­ing images of Aylan Kurdi, a tod­dler lying dead on a Turk­ish beach after he and his fam­ily sought refuge spurred the world to take action to help save more refugees, Geller advanced her claim that the flow of refugees is a Mus­lim inva­sion that needs to be stopped. “How this new inva­sion will end is anyone’s guess – but it won’t be pretty. Today’s refugee is tomorrow’s jihadist,” Geller wrote on Sep­tem­ber 6 on World­Net­Daily (WND), a con­ser­v­a­tive website.

Geller exploits con­cern over ter­ror­ism to get an audi­ence for her anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim agenda. She equates Mus­lim refugees with ter­ror­ism and pro­motes the idea that every Mus­lim wants to wage Jihad against the West.

She wrote on Sep­tem­ber 6, “The ques­tion no one is ask­ing is why all these peo­ple, all of a sud­den? Did mil­lions of Mus­lims across the Mid­dle East and Africa get a text mes­sage that said, go now? This is clearly orches­trated, and as I pre­vi­ously reported, ISIS warned Europe of an inva­sion of ‘migrants.’ This, too, is an act of war. How many jihadists are among the hordes?”

Geller also con­nected the refugee cri­sis in Europe to the United States. She wrote on her offi­cial blog post on Sep­tem­ber 7, “This is a cau­tion­ary tale for Amer­ica. We must not allow these invaders into our coun­try. This is a hijrah, a migra­tion to Islamize a new land.”

In addi­tion, Geller’s cam­paign against refugees also recy­cles some of her anti-Obama con­spir­acy the­o­ries. In August, she accused Pres­i­dent Obama of reset­tling a large num­ber of Syr­ian refugees as part of a plot to destroy Amer­ica. She claimed, “Obama is bring­ing Mus­lim refugees into this coun­try by the hun­dreds of thou­sands in his unceas­ing pur­suit of the destruc­tion of Amer­ica.” She also called for an end to the U.S. refugee reset­tle­ment program

Geller has waged an anti-Muslim cam­paign for years by hold­ing con­tro­ver­sial events such as the “Draw Muham­mad” con­test, plac­ing anti-Muslim ads on buses, and giv­ing speeches claim­ing that Mus­lim immi­grants pose a threat to the U.S. Her increas­ing anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric not only con­tra­dicts the Jewish-American val­ues which she claims to defend but it also vio­lates basic human decency.

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January 14, 2015 1

After Terrorist Attacks, Anti-immigrant Activists Attack Muslim Immigration

In the wake of the deadly ter­ror­ist attacks on the Char­lie Hebdo Paris office and a kosher mar­ket in Paris, anti-immigrant activists in the U.S. are urg­ing the United States to stop all Mus­lim immi­gra­tion to this coun­try. They also claim that any­one who prac­tices Islam is inclined towards extremism.

Tom Tancredo

Tom Tan­credo

In a Jan­u­ary 12, 2015 col­umn for World Net Daily (WND) titled, “Yes, It is Islam!” for­mer Col­orado Con­gress­man Tom Tan­credo writes, “So, here we are again, being told that we can’t blame Islam for the mur­der­ous acts that have cost thou­sands of lives since 9/11 and mil­lions of lives since the 14th cen­tury! Well, then let me ask a sim­ple ques­tion: If Islam did not exist, how many of these events would have occurred?”

Although Tan­credo acknowl­edges that rad­i­cal Islam is the prob­lem, he does not make a dis­tinc­tion between ter­ror­ists and peo­ple of the Mus­lim faith.. He asserts “that the jihadists do not rep­re­sent all Mus­lims is irrel­e­vant.” He con­tin­ues, “We have spent tens of bil­lions hunt­ing down and killing ter­ror­ist lead­ers with drones and other tools of high-tech war­fare, while accept­ing and per­mit­ting the growth of the can­cer of Shariah law in our own com­mu­ni­ties.” Tan­credo then sug­gests that “we stop all immi­gra­tion of Mus­lims into the United States and then deport those already here who adhere to Shariah law.” He also calls for seal­ing all our bor­ders against ille­gal entry to pre­vent jihadists from using “our open bor­ders to infil­trate our communities.”

Frosty Wooldridge, who is an advi­sory board mem­ber of the extreme anti-immigrant group Fed­er­a­tion for Amer­i­can Immi­gra­tion Reform, often den­i­grates immi­grants and Mus­lims in his columns for in the right-wing online pub­li­ca­tion, “News with Views.” He has writ­ten a series of columns titled, “Impreg­nat­ing Amer­ica with Mus­lims,” in which he attacks Mus­lim immi­grants. In his lat­est col­umn on Jan­u­ary 12, titled, “Islam Forces West­ern Ideals into Extinc­tion,” he reprints a num­ber of anti-Muslim quotes from the late writer and bigot Lawrence Auster, includ­ing: “It is impor­tant to under­stand that what makes Islam dan­ger­ous to non-Muslims is not that Mus­lims are morally bad peo­ple. The prob­lem is not that Mus­lims are bad peo­ple, the prob­lem is that they are good Mus­lims. Our con­cern is with the reli­gion and the polit­i­cal ide­ol­ogy of Islam, which makes all Mus­lims dan­ger­ous to us, since all Mus­lims, even if they per­son­ally have no aggres­sive inten­tions, even if they are per­son­ally fine and lovely peo­ple, are part of the Islamic com­mu­nity and owe their high­est loy­alty to Islam.”

Wooldridge ends his col­umn by warn­ing, “The illit­er­ate, bar­baric, killing-machine war­lord Mohammed con­tin­ues his car­nage into the 21st cen­tury with the hands of 1.5 bil­lion of his fol­low­ers. If we fail to stop mass immi­gra­tion, France’s night­mare becomes our future.”

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