A New Jersey elementary school is under pressure to fire a teacher after she was accused of pulling off a young Muslim student’s hijab.
Ibtihaj Muhammad, who according to NBC Philadelphia is the girl’s mother, described the alleged incident on Instagram. She says a teacher at the school, Seth Boyden Elementary in Maplewood, “forcibly removed” the second-grader’s headscarf in front of the rest of the class.
“The young student resisted, by trying to hold onto her hijab, but the teacher pulled the hijab off, exposing her hair to the class,” Ms Muhammad wrote. “Imagine being a child and stripped of your clothing in front of your classmates. Imagine the humiliation and trauma this experience has caused her. This is abuse.”
In an email to parents, the school’s district said it was investigating what happened.
“We must abide by our legal obligations to keep personnel and student matters confidential,” the South Orange Maplewood School District wrote. “We will utilize the existing District due process mechanisms to ensure fair and just outcomes based upon the results of our investigation. Any decision or outcome related to this will be reserved for after the completion of the investigation.”
But some in the community are not willing to wait. The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) called for the teacher to be fired immediately.
“Forcefully stripping off the religious headscarf of a Muslim girl is not only exceptionally disrespectful behavior, but also a humiliating and traumatic experience,” the group wrote on Twitter. “Islamophobia in our public schools must be addressed in NJ. Classrooms are a place for students to feel safe and welcome, not fear practicing their faith.”
The hijab is a religious garment used by some – but not all – Muslim women to cover their hair. According to Ms Muhammad, the teacher in this case “told the student that her hair was beautiful and she did not have to wear hijab to school anymore.”
Ms Muhammad, who is also an Olympic fencer, urged people to call the school, principal, and superintendent to protest.
“We cannot move toward a post-racial America until we weed out the racism and bigotry that still exist in all layers of our society,” she wrote. “By protecting Muslim girls who wear hijab, we are protecting the rights of all of us to have a choice in the way we dress.”
The Independent has reached out to Seth Boyden Elementary for comment.
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