Islamophobia and hate speech against Muslims are on the rise in classrooms in Wisconsin, says the director of the Milwaukee Muslim Women's Coalition.
Janan Najeeb, who founded the group, has said that anti-Muslim hate speech and Islamophobic incidents have been increasing in Wisconsin public schools, Wisconsin Public Radio reports. Najeeb also said that she believes many Muslim students face threats and bullying that goes unreported.
"The problem is that you don't really hear about it," Najeeb told WPR.
"... A lot of time the Muslim community and families are not willing to come forward and make an issue out of that," she added. "They feel targeted to begin with."
Wisconsin's Muslim community is still reeling from the 2012 shooting at the Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, near Milwaukee. The victims are thought to have been targeted because the shooter believed they were Muslims, though in fact they were members of the Sikh faith.
"Everyone here is thinking this is a hate crime for sure," Manjit Singh, who attends a nearby temple, told The New York Times after the shooting. "People think we are Muslims."
In the wake of the Sikh Temple shooting, Muslim women and girls who wore the traditional hijab became the targets of insults and harassment, including at least one reported case of being spit on, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
"I went to take my children for ice cream and a man said to my kids, 'Give me one reason why I shouldn't kill you,'" a Muslim woman named Tarin said, asking to only be identified by her first name because she feared that she would be targeted.
After the incident, Tarin said her children became scared of being attacked.
"Even in the middle of the night," she added, "[my son] comes into my room saying, 'Mom, why do they want to kill us?'"
Other incidents included a woman who was spat on in an elevator, young Muslim boys who were harassed on a school bus, and a woman who was asked to leave a store that she had been shopping in. A Wisconsin teacher said his wife, who wears a face veil called a niqab, is now afraid of leaving their home because of anti-Muslim comments.
Najeeb has begun meeting with school administrators to advocate for policies of zero tolerance for hate speech, and she also recently started a series of workshops to help Muslim members of her community respond to Islamophobia, WPR reports.