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I am an American Muslim Student

In 2018, we will be escalating our efforts to publish student opinion pieces on our blog in order to further amplify Oregon student voices. Students are encouraged to submit a short opinion piece (no longer than 500 words) about their unique experiences in and views on K-12 education to this form. Today, we are sharing a piece from Sarah Ali.

Equality, is the very word that many people all around the world dream of. In the eyes of many, equality can be seen as a given. However, like global warming and poverty in the United States, equality has been neglected. In current modern society we have come to believe that all people are equal, yet in reality we are not.

I was seven when I walked to school with a hijab on my head. I was seven when I was asked what religion I believed in. Was that a top concern for my peers and teachers? Why is it important? Is a magenta colored scarf going to create any harm? I found myself the center of attention in my second grade class. Students asked me daily when I would finally take it off. But why? How is my hijab covered in butterflies so controversial? I think it was because I was rare, like a giant sequoia.

My fear was fueled by the radiating eyes of society. I could not speak for myself. I had to remain quiet. I can vividly picture the day my hijab was pulled off my head when I was in elementary school. However, my only reaction was to put the piece of undefined beauty right back on and remain quiet. Many may have believed I would be shocked, scared, or angered but I was not. I was finally awakened. Everyday I grow. Every year I stood taller. I was not going to let fear represent my hijab.

Do we believe in equality? If so, why is a head scarf controversial? If the children today feel obligated to revert to harassment and verbal abuse simply because they do not believe in or understand the ideals of one of their peers, then this is an absolute injustice. As students we must make the classroom environment a welcoming place. As students we must not judge one another by the color of skin another holds. As students we must learn from the varying cultures of one another. As students we must respect the morals of this country. Our country was founded on the morals of equality, fairness, and responsibility. These morals should be integrated into our lives, but my experience has been that many do not rely on these morals in their treatment of others.

Like a giant sequoia I was able expand my roots, which has fostered the person I am today. Though I had to encounter islamophobia, I learned that many people are trying to conform to the negative views society has on certain groups of people. In my point of view, islamophobia has gained acceptance in American society, and this ingrained prejudice which is impacting our children and schools. Unfortunately, like myself, many other students have to face unjust actions made by others, who believe that they are superior. This affects students’ abilities to learn and grow in our schools. We must embrace the existence of all the colors, and beliefs of all human beings. As the next generation of leaders, we must.

Sarah Ali is a junior at Centennial High School and a member of Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.

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