CAIR-LA: STUDENTS FORM MUSLIM GROUP AT MISSION HILLS HIGH
SAN MARCOS ---- There is one day that will always stand out in the mind of Mission Hills High School senior Dina Hamideh ---- the day she decided to publicly display her faith at school.
On April 4 of this year, Hamideh showed up for class for the first time wearing a "hijab," a head scarf that represented her Muslim faith and her vow of modesty.
The action sparked more than curiosity from her peers.
"People started coming up to me and asking me tons of questions," said Hamideh, who wears her hijab to basketball and hockey practice. "They started telling me how much they respected me and respected my religion, it was awesome."
Prompted by the reaction and their faith, Hamideh and senior Raihna Siddiq decided to create the Muslim Student Alliance group at Mission Hills ---- the only club of its kind in North County.
The club's goal is to teach others about Islam, involve students in community service and help dispel misconceptions created by the recent negative portrayal of Muslims in the world, said Siddiq.
"We want to teach others that not all Muslims are terrorists," said Siddiq, who serves as president of the club. "We want to show them we are nice, peaceful people."
Sabiha Kahn, spokeswoman for the Southern California Council on American-Islamic Relations, said schools that provide a place for Muslim teenagers to congregate provide a crucial element in helping Muslim teens better express their identity. Such organizations also help dispel the negative image of Muslims that followed the 9/11 terrorist attacks, she said.
There are more than 600,000 Muslims living in Southern California, according to the council.
In 2004, reports of hate crimes and civil rights cases involving Muslims in Southern California increased 38 percent, according to the council's 2004 report. The increase is the biggest recorded by the organization in its seven years of existence, the report states.
"During these times, it's hard to be a Muslim teenager," said Kahn. "It's hard to be proud of your identity when there is so much misinformation. It really takes courage for some to step up to the plate."