Members of the Islamic community are asking Hamilton County Schools
officials to consider sensitivity training before violent crimes against
Muslims, particularly Arab-Americans, become a problem locally.
Members of the local Islamic community want to meet with schools officials
before school starts to discuss sensitivity training for teachers and
school administrators, a spokesman said.
"We want to recommend material and textbooks that can help eliminate
misinformation," said Khalid Hashmi, a spokesman for the Annour Islamic
community in Chattanooga.
Warren Hill, director of primary education for the Hamilton County Schools,
said he wasn't aware there was a need for training.
"I haven't heard the first thing about that from anybody, hadn't had any
complaints or phone calls from anybody," he said.
Mr. Hashmi said at least 10 parents called the North Chattanooga Islamic
Center last school year to complain about other students calling their
children terrorists or making fun of their head coverings. He said
residents reported the incidents to the school system but not the police.
He said he had firsthand experience with people misunderstanding Islamic
culture last year when a student called his 10-year-old son a terrorist and
said that the ball with which he played was a bomb.
Mr. Hashmi said he reported the matter to the school system. Schools
officials met with him and counseled the student who made the accusation,
Members of the Islamic community want to address misunderstandings about
Arab-Americans and Muslims before any major incidences happen locally, he
In one year, the number of discrimination and hate crime complaints
concerning Muslim- Americans increased nationally by 70 percent, according
to officials with the Washington, D.C.,- based Council on American-Islamic
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the beheading of civilians in
Iraq earlier this year have led to Islam being portrayed as a "violent,
backward religion," said Rabiah Ahmed, education coordinator with the
Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Sensitivity training "helps people differentiate between terrorists and
Muslims who have families and care about their country and who are just as
human as anyone else," Ms. Ahmed said.
She said training implemented by the Council on American-Islamic Relations
is interactive and usually lasts about 2 to 4 hours. It's worth the effort,
Ms. Ahmed said.
"Training puts a human face to the religion," she said. "A lot of times all
people know is what they see on TV..."
Ms. Ahmed said training prices are determined by the number of participants
and the length of the training. Sessions are offered lasting from two hours
to three days, she said.