Workshops teach Muslim teens how to handle personal, religious attacks

Members of Atlanta’s Muslim community are working with Muslim middle and high school students on how to handle situations in which they or the Islamic faith are attacked.

The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta is hosting its second workshop today to discuss some of the issues facing Muslim students in their schools and with their peers.

The organization typically hosts these type workshops for adults, but “we’ve noticed there is a great burden for defense on our students, particularly for girls because they may choose to cover their hair,” said Asif Saberi, an Islamic Speakers Bureau board member.

Last week, for example, a Shiloh Middle School teacher in Gwinnett County asked a Muslim student wearing a hijab, a headscarf worn by Muslim women, if she was carrying a bomb in her backpack. School officials apologized to the student and her family, and have said they are working with the teacher, who they say meant the comment without any ill intent. The incident comes amid growing anti-Muslim sentiment following recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

“We wanted to give (students) tools to handle these situations in a positive manner so that it becomes a sharing of information and not a confrontation,” Saberi said. “We don’t want kids to react in the wrong way.”

Saturday’s workshop, held at the East Cobb Islamic Center, will include a mix of presentations and breakout sessions for students and parents, including some role playing of responses in various situations.

The Islamic Speakers Bureau is an educational organization, Saberi said, that prepares and provides people to speak about Islam throughout the metro Atlanta area, including at churches and other congregations. The group also partners with other religious groups, such as the Sikh community, for interfaith speaker bureaus to educate about multiple faiths.