On Nov. 30, Fox 26 News reported that the father of a six-year-old Muslim boy with Down Syndrome claims that a substitute teacher allegedly said his son was a terrorist, and called the police on him. According to Maher Suleiman, the boy's father, the teacher allegedly claimed that his son said "Allah" and "boom" at C.J. Harris Elementary School in Pearland, Texas, but Suleiman says the boy, Mohammad, is non-verbal. Suleiman told FOX 26 that the teacher's alleged report is "not implied discrimination, it’s actual discrimination." The substitute teacher's phone call triggered investigations by the Pearland Police Department and Child Protective Services. An officer from the Pearland Police Department tells Bustle in an email that the department was called to investigate, but "determined it was not a police matter, and we have no further involvement." The Pearland Police Department did not provide details regarding what the call was about. Child Protective Services told FOX 26 that its investigation into Mohammad's family remains open. Bustle has reached out to C. J. Harris Elementary School for comment, and will update this post when we hear back.
Suleiman told FOX 26 that Mohammad has Down Syndrome chromosome 21, and, contrary to what the substitute teacher allegedly told police, has never spoken. "He needs care all the time," he added, saying Mohammad has "intellectual difficulties" and that "he doesn't speak at all."
"The last three to four weeks have been the hardest of my life," Suleiman, told FOX 26. "My wife and kids were crying a few days ago and I told them everything is fine." It is not currently known if the substitute teacher is still employed by the district.
The story has ignited criticism across social media, especially on Twitter, where some users are saying the teacher's alleged report is a result of islamophobia. Activist Linda Sarsour, who is national co-chair of the Women's March, tweeted multiple times about the news on Dec. 1, saying in one tweet, "I am done. I can't. Infuriating. Our poor babies."
Some users were calling the situation an example of islamophobia. Others expressed pure disbelief at Suleiman's claims. Many are just furious. "This is where anti-Muslim dehumanising narratives are taking us," tweeted user @MariamKSHakim posted.
This story comes on the heels of recent news that on Nov. 30, Donald Trump retweeted three tweets containing media from far-right political party Britain First, which Vox reported is allegedly known for its extremely anti-Muslim sentiments. The tweets contained videos Britain First claimed showed Islamist violence, but those claims were quickly debunked. According to Vox, "One [video] claimed to show a Muslim man destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary; another professed to have captured a 'Muslim migrant' beating up a 'Dutch boy on crutches,' and a third seemed to show Muslim men pushing a boy off a building." None of these videos were verified to show what they claim to show, and many people on Twitter, from the U.S. and the UK, were quick to denounce Trump's dissemination of unverified islamophobic media. One British MP called Trump a "purveyor of hate" and a "real & present threat."
When the president is the one openly propagating anti-Muslim sentiment, it is an implicit approval of islamophobic behavior by ordinary Americans. As with the case of Ahmed Mohamed, the teen who, in 2016, was arrested allegedly because he brought a clock he had built to school with him, when the police are called on a six-year-old boy with Down Syndrome allegedly because he said "boom," it's just another example of how islamophobia can lead to irrational and dangerous actions. The actions and rhetoric of people like Trump increase the everyday threat against Muslims in the U.S. — and even, in this case, against kids as young as six. They are the ones who must bear the weight of accusations and suspicion engendered by anti-Muslim propaganda.