Helping pupils make sense of the Paris attacks is crucial, explains Amjad Ali, who worries about the messages they’ll take from the events.

Last week, on Friday, a series of events took place that spanned the globe and claimed the lives of innocent human beings. From Iraq and Lebanon to Paris.

When I began to hear about the atrocities in France a selfish attitude overcame me. I began to think about my parents, younger brother, my family and myself. I began to think about my religion. I instantly hoped, wished and prayed that these attacks were a terrible mistake, rumors, even a nasty joke on the internet. I was wishing, selfishly, that there were not in any shape or form to be affiliated to a Muslim extremist group.

Since September 11th 2001, I have been on the sharp end of a global shift in attitudes towards Islam. Whether you believe Islamophobia exists, or is an actual thing , I can only speak from my perspective as a British Muslim living in England. I can only talk about how my life has changed.

I have previously refused to send tweets out apologising for the actions of apparent Muslims when they have carried out unimaginable, inexcusable, unjustifiable acts of violence. I have said it is not my job to apologise for the wrong doings of others masquerading under the banner of Islam.

But…. I worry.

I am worried about pupils who think the attacks were carried out by Muslim refugees.

I am worried about pupils who do not know any other ‘types’ of people to themselves. Religious or non-religious, people of colour or not.

I am worried about the ones who will go to their schools having heard adults talking about another ‘Muslim’ terrorist attack.

I am worried about the pupils who will associate a Hijab with opposition to ‘British Values’.

I am worried about the ones that will say they ‘hate us’ even more now.

I am worried about the pupils who ask why I stay silent during Remembrance Day claiming that the soldiers ‘didnt fight for me’.

I am worried they do not understand that hundreds of thousands of Muslim soldiers also fought in the World Wars.

I am worried children will make idle jokes about Muslims being terrorists, again.

I am worried about Muslim pupils who will now joke about being terrorists.

I am worried that the spade that is digging us, Muslims, away from the rest of society is working at an ever more rapid rate.

I am worried.

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So, if you work in a school … what can you do?

 

I have some ideas:

Teach students to talk about the incidents and ask them to respond to Trending Hashtags.

Show students information from a variety of sources and ask them to learn how to research effectively.

Teach pupils about the political spectrum and the importance of knowing where information is from.

Continually remind everyone that words Islam and Muslim are not synonymous with terrorism and violence.

 

I am also thinking, we can set up a FaithBoxED – a conference and meeting of minds – to spark conversations between Muslims and non-Muslims?

I know we all come into this profession to make a difference and to balance the scales of inequality. Sometimes it isn’t just special educational needs, or a disadvantaged nature of a student’s parents income. It could be this, making a change to ignorance, prejudice and discrimination. Along with making a change to the shape and form of every students lives we interact with.

 

Visit www.bit.ly/faithboxed for more information on the initiative.