More than 42% of Muslims in the U.S. report bullying among their school-age kids (in California, it’s more than half), and Pew reports that at least 53 mosques and Islamic centers encountered community resistance in 2012. The Afzal family tell NPR that they know these statistics all too well for they are living it. The family faces bullying and Islamophobia in many parts of their lives — bullying at their daughter’s high school and resistance with their efforts to build a local mosque in their hometown of Gilroy, California.
“The [Afazal family] deals with situations where they are being targeted or called terrorists. In some situations, this actually comes from the administrators and teachers,” says Ishaq Pathan, who runs the youth programs at Islamic Networks Group. He is working with the school to create a presentation about inclusion and understanding people’s differences. “A lot of what we believe is that religious-based bullying is based on ignorance.” The family says that they are reporting their daughter’s bullying and sharing their stories with school administrators, classmates, and neighbors.
The family of six has been trying to build a mosque with a community center and cemetery for years, but the project has met tremendous resistance with their neighbors. Noshaba Afzal, the matriarch of the family, says that at a city meeting in 2012, person after person got up and “Just blasted…’We don’t want them here. They’re bringing Sharia law. You guys are terrorists.'”
Noshaba refused to accept this and countered, “No, this is not the America we want it to be. And we know America can be what we want, where it’s inclusion and it’s our rights. And we just want to practice.”