Muslim children in the UK as young as nine have been bullied about their race and faith after a spate of recent terror attacks in the country with some being branded as “terrorists” by classmates, according to a charity. ‘Childline’, a children’s helpline in the UK, saw an increase in the number of times they were contacted by children regarding race and faith-based bullying in the past few months. According to the helpline, the number of sessions doubled after the attack in Westminster, London in comparison to the previous month, The Independent reported.
Another increase was recorded in the fortnight following the attack in Manchester Arena in May when the helpline conducted over 300 counselling sessions with children who were concerned about terrorism. Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Sikh children were among those who contacted the helpline to discuss being bullied on faith-based grounds. This has been the topic of over 2,500 counselling sessions in the past three years. “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.
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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. According to the helpline, Muslim children have endured constant name-calling and have been accused of being associated with groups such as the Islamic State and even threatened with violence. ‘Childline’ also reported that Muslim girls were targeted because of their headscarf.
The helpline counselors received calls from children who had been on the receiving end of constant abuse and negative stereotyping which had led them to self-harm, while many wished to change who they are. Some children even skipped school to avoid being bullied, the report said. These reactions come after a number of terror attacks occurred in the UK leading to a rise in racist incidents in the cities where these attacks took place. 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 NSPCC has urged adults to keep an eye out for signs of bullying and talk to children who are bullying or being bullied, while encouraging those being bullied that it is not their fault.