Muslim students saddened by disaster, bias

By Daniel Massey

Students returned to the Al Iman School in Jamaica Monday for the first time since last week’s terrorist attacks. In a morning assembly at the Islamic school that runs from kindergarten through 12th grade, Principal Nassir Aliakber greeted the students warmly and assured them their religion does not condone violence in any form.

Regular classes were canceled for the first two periods, giving students the opportunity to express their feelings in the wake of the attack. “There are no silly questions,” Aliakber told his students. “Exercise your right of expressing your feelings.”

Here are the students’ reactions to the attacks in their own words. They were not identified by name at the request of parents and the school.

“Hate is what did this. If Americans start blaming each other, then hate has succeeded.” (eighth-grade girl)

“I’m sad because a lot of people died, mad because they’re blaming Muslims just like Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma, and relieved because nobody in my family got killed.” (fifth-grade boy)

“I feel happy because some people got out, mad because some people died and scared because everyone on my block is Christian. I don’t want to get hurt.” (fifth-grade girl)

“I’m scared because they might bomb Sudan, where my family comes from.” (fifth grade boy)

“They may call themselves Muslims, but they’re not Muslims. Islam means peace. If you’re going to kill, how can it mean peace? It has nothing to do with religion. They want war.” (eighth-grade boy)

“A guy stared at me and called me ‘Muslim.’ I felt my confidence was stabbed. I felt weak. I didn’t take off my hijab. If I take it off, I feel different.” (fifth-grade girl)

“I was wearing my hijab this morning and everyone was looking at me like I’m in the zoo. I had to take my hijab off. I didn’t feel normal. I felt really uncomfortable because usually I wear it outside.” (eighth-grade girl)

“The scariest part about this is that during World War II Japanese people in America were put into concentration camps. Are all Arabs and Muslims going to be treated the way Japanese were?” (ninth-grade girl)

“I see myself first as a Muslim and I’m proud of that. Other than religion, I’m not different from any other 13-year-old girl.” (eighth-grade girl)

“What if we had World War III and there was nothing left, not even plants, animals or children? The world would be empty.” (fifth-grade boy

Reach Reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

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