Ever since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, American Muslims have frequently faced discrimination and harassment. High-profile acts of violence like the recent shootings in San Bernardino have only made things worse for peaceful Americans who identify as Muslim, and even for those who simply look like they could be of Arab descent. Sadly, the threat of terrorism has caused many people to abandon the truly American values of religious freedom and the personal liberties enumerated in the Bill of Rights.
Such discrimination even finds its way into our schools and workplaces. According to news sources, a Muslim-American U.S. history teacher recently filed a lawsuit against the school district that fired her. She alleges that the complaints leading to her termination were motivated by religious and ethnic discrimination. She also says that she was reprimanded for teaching and discussing current events related to the Middle East despite using the exact same teaching materials as her white colleagues.
A recent news article about the lawsuit notes that the woman taught in a small New Jersey town from 2013 through September 2015, when she was fired. One of the complaints against the woman, who is of Palestinian descent, was related to her decision to show a video about Malala Yusufzai, a teenager who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014. Yusufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban because of her insistence that girls and women have the right to pursue education.
According to the plaintiff’s complaint, a white colleague in the history department first showed the Yusufzai video and suggested that she show it in her own class. She was later confronted by the head of the social studies department, who allegedly told her “that she could not teach current events in the same manner as her non-Arab, non-Palestinian and non-Muslim colleagues.” This was reportedly in response to complaints from parents to the school principal.
During the months that followed, the teacher faced a number of other seemingly baseless accusations, including allegations that she was anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and that her brother was a terrorist.
Americans are supposed to be protected against religious and ethnic discrimination in the workplace. And schools are supposed to equip students with the tools to think freely and reject intolerance and narrow-mindedness. If even some of the allegations in this lawsuit are true, it seems clear that the defendant school district has failed in its obligations to employees and students alike.