A new center focused on preventing hate and bullying opened its doors Wednesday, Nov. 3, in Anaheim, the first of its kind for the Council of American-Islamic Relations.
The Center for the Prevention of Hate and Bullying will be based in the Council of American-Islamic Relations’ Los Angeles Chapter’s headquarters in Anaheim, but will serve the Greater Los Angeles area, said its interim director Masih Fouladi during a news conference Wednesday. He said the center will aim to lead “multifaceted efforts” to combat hate crimes and bullying affecting the Black/African, Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian communities.
“For the Muslim community, there are several major areas where hate impacts us,” Fouladi said. “Mosques are one of the first places where hate manifests.”
Hate and bullying are common in schools and also on college campuses where more and more Muslim students feel unwelcome, he said.
“(A college campus) is no long a place to share free thought,” he said, adding that those members of the community who are “visibly Muslim” such as women who wear hijabs or head scarves, are also targets of hate.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta helped to unveil the center, at 2180 W. Crescent Ave., in Anaheim Wednesday and threw his office’s support behind all efforts to combat hate. Bonta has been on a statewide tour, making stops in Southern California cities including Riverside, Santa Ana, Long Beach to talk about preventing hate crimes and incidents with local officials and grassroots groups.
CAIR California released its 2021 Bullying Report Oct. 29, which showed that about 56% of Muslim students in California said they feel “unsafe, unwelcome or uncomfortable” in school because of their religious identity.
The new center will take a deeper dive and perform “reflective analysis” on crucial data collected through surveys that generated the bullying reports, which CAIR California has released every two years for the last decade, Fouladi said. He said another focus will be to raise awareness about hate during election cycles, which occur largely because of false information on social media and political rhetoric.
Among the proactive steps the center will take include advocating for large numbers of Afghan refugees who are expected to come to Southern California, Fouladi said.
“Sadly, we expect an increase in hate and bullying targeting that community,” he said. “We are already working with law enforcement so they can be cognizant as well as with school districts to make sure they have language support for these students.”
Fouladi said Southern California is the perfect location for this new center because it is home to about half a million Muslims, the largest concentration of the community in the United States.
“The Muslim community in this region has been impacted by hate since 9/11,” he said. “Over the last two years, we’ve had the pandemic, where we saw anti-Asian hate crimes. Large segments of the Muslim community is Asian.”
In the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and the racial reconciliation that followed, Black people were targeted, which also has a large segment of Muslims, Fouladi said.
“We just commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” he said. “But, after two decades, we’re still seeing a spike in hate crimes and incidents targeting our community.”
The center will also aim to collaborate with non-Muslims as well to learn about the issue affecting them, Fouladi said.
“We want to figure out solutions together,” he said. “The hate we’re experiencing is systemic, and change is not going to happen with just one community. We need to work together.”
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