Bayan Zehlif, a 17 year old student at Los Osos High School in California was misidentified as ‘Isis Philips’ in her high school yearbook. Last Friday she took to Facebook to share her outrage. Whilst Isis used to be a popular name for girls, today it is more closely associated with the self-identified Islamic State (also known as ISIS). The post quickly went viral and messages of support came pouring in from all corners of the world.
Sadly however, closer to home at her own school the response has not been entirely positive. She’s been accused of speaking out just to get attention and a video surfaced online of a fellow student tearing down a poster at the school which reads, “We stand with you Bayan”
“I was going to go back to school and enjoy the nine days I have left — or five days I have left — until the students of the school started attacking me on social media,” Bayan Zehlif, a soon-to-be graduate at Los Osos High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California, said at a press conference on Monday.
Over half of Muslim students in California report being harassed over their faith
“I have been getting a lot of support online from many people all over the world, but it hurts, seeing people hate me — my classmates that I’m going to graduate with hate on me, attack me like that, it hurts a lot,” Zehlif said. “It makes you forget about all the support you’re getting. You know those people. You’re supposed to be proud to be one of them, graduating with them.”
“We join with the family in their concern about a possible bias motive for this incident and in the deep concern for their daughter’s safety as a result of being falsely labeled as a member of a terrorist group,” Hussam Ayloush, the executive director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said in a statement this weekend. “No student should have to face the humiliation of being associated with a group as reprehensible as ISIS.”
It’s not an uncommon experience for Muslim students. There has been a surge in Islamophobic political rhetoric and a corresponding wave of anti-Muslim hate crimes over the past year. A recent poll found that over half of Muslim students in California reported being bullied because of their faith.
According to the November report from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, 55 percent of California students ages 11 to 18 reported being bullied or discriminated against due to their religion. That’s twice as high as the national average of students who reported being bullied.
You can see Bayan speaking about the incident at a press conference here: