CHRO Attorneys Participate in Forum on Anti-Muslim Bullying

From an article appearing in the Record-Journal:

MERIDEN — State and federal agencies presented a forum on anti-bullying Saturday afternoon at the Baitul Aman Mosque in South Meriden, two days after a city resident was arrested and charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with damages to religious property, a month after shots were fired into the empty mosque.

The anti-bullying training program was planned three weeks ago, the result of Muslim children who have reported incidents of bullying and was geared towards the mosque’s student population.

U.S. Attorney Sarala Nagala, of the federal Department of Justice, said the program was in the planning stages three weeks ago when Mohammed Qureshi, president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, was approached by children who were speaking of bullying. Nagala said the training program was the third one of its type in Connecticut and something Qureshi said the Meriden Muslim community needed.

Attorneys Cheryl Sharp and Donna Wilkerson-Brillant of the Connecticut Commission of Human Rights and Opportunities, gave a presentation on how to deal with bullying, and the importance of reporting an incident and talking to an adult — teacher or parent — about it.

Dr. Bill Howe, who worked for the State Department of Education for 20 years and handled bullying complaints, was part of the panel and gave a presentation on “Teaching Your Children How to Deal with Bullying: The Seven Critical Social Skills.”

The 90-minute forum, which drew about 75 attendees, concluded with a Question & Answer session.

“I think it’s important for the community to know that the state cares,” Sharp said after the program, “ that they can lean on us.”

“I think it was very useful,” Nagala said, “so they know they have resources. The timing was good.”

“This was very insightful and very important for our community,” Qureshi said.

Sharp told the children in attendance, “The issue is very large and complex. You’re going to school to get an education and you shouldn’t be worried about that (bullying).”

“The agency is making itself available as a resource,” Sharp said.

Nasir Mannan addressed the audience with hadiths, or sayings of the Holy Prophet Muhammad relating to bullying, from the Islam perspective, noting that “bullying is a form of oppression,” but also that forgiveness is part of the healing process, a point that was shared by Sharp and Wilkerson-Brillant during the program.

“This is the first step,” Qureshi said.