LONDON – British Muslim children as young as nine are facing increasing bullying in schools in the wake of recent terror attacks, with some being branded “terrorists” and others accused of joining ISIS, a recent report by Childline charity said.
“I’m upset because people are making racist comments to me today and talking about the Manchester attack,” a 12-year-old boy told a Childline counsellor, PTI reported on Wednesday, June 28.
Another caller, a 15-year-old girl, said boys were “always calling me a terrorist” and that her teachers did nothing about it.
“It makes me so angry and upset that I’ve started to cut myself. It numbs the pain,” she said.
Childline, a children’s helpline in the UK, said the number of children who requested counselling almost doubled after the Westminster atrocity compared to the previous month.
In the two weeks after the Manchester Arena bombing, the charity said it had to offer 300 sessions to youngsters worried about terrorism.
Some children skipped school because of the bullying while others ended up self-harming.
President and founder of the helpline Dame Esther Rantzen called for awareness in adults regarding the impact of terror activities on children and how it results in their treatment of each other.
Dame said it was “crucial” that targeted children should be protected from such atrocities.
“Childline is in a unique position to be able to hear from children who may be ignored or overlooked when there are major events, like terror attacks. It’s crucial adults are aware of this issue and protect those who may be targeted,” she said.
Meanwhile, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty (NSPCC) to Children CEO Peter Wanless said, “No child should be targeted because of their race or faith and we cannot allow prejudice to make children feel ashamed of who they are. Instead, we should celebrate diversity and stand together.”
“It takes huge courage for a child to speak up about this issue and they must be encouraged to speak up if they are being targeted,” Wanless said.
“Some children don’t understand how painful and damaging their words can be, so adults must not turn a blind eye if they see young people turning on one another,” he said.
The charity said it had held 2,500 counselling sessions over the last three years, with children from across the religious spectrum being subjected to faith-based abuse.
“When these events happen we adults are so often overwhelmed with horror we sometimes forget about the children watching too,” Rantzen said.
“Childline is in a unique position to be able to hear from children who may be ignored or overlooked when there are major events, like terror attacks. It’s crucial adults are aware of this issue and protect those who may be targeted.”