A Virginia teen who alleges a teacher pulled off her Islamic headscarf is now being harassed online by other students and another teacher from her school, a Muslim civil rights group has reported. Student Yasmin Yahye said last week that that teacher Lesmond Saunders removed her headscarf without her consent and has since told the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) that she has experienced cyberbullying. In a letter to Lake Braddock Secondary School principal David Thomas Tuesday, CAIR called for the school to protect Yahye from cyberbullying. “The students and teacher are retaliating against Yasmin for reporting her incident. Shamefully, their comments indicate anti-Muslim sentiment,” wrote the group’s attorney Ahmed Mohamed.
The letter contains a number of examples of harassment directed at Yahye in the past week. In her account of Saunders’s actions, Yahye said, “My hijab was ripped off my head.” She said this was done “by a teacher I appreciated and valued.” Saunders has been put on indefinite suspension without pay pending an investigation since the alleged incident. Much of the cyberbullying cited by CAIR references Yahye’s religion and her choosing to cover her head.
In one tweet over the weekend, George Shoriz, a senior at the school, wrote, “Yo fuck that dumb Muslim bitch she had a hoodie on top of her hijab and sanders took the hoody (sic) off and that jaunt came off with it slander ass bitch.” Some students at the school have banded behind Saunders and are disputing Yahye’s account, using the hashtag #FreeSaunders. Last week a number staged a sit-in one of the school’s hallways. Another student sent Yasmin a private, direct message on Twitter stating: “F**k is wrong with you?”
America’s Muslim community is on alert as anti-Muslim incidents have increased to their highest point since 9/11 over the last two years. FBI statistics released early this month showed that hate crimes against Muslims rose 20 percent in 2016 after rising 70 percent the year before. In August, a mosque in Minnesota was attacked with an improvised explosive that was thrown through one of its windows. CAIR has attributed the rise in anti-Muslim incidents, in part, to Trump’s rhetoric against Muslims during the 2016 election campaign.