American Muslim student wins praises over interfaith work – working towards Islamic principles of tolerance

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SHAFAQNA – An American Muslim high school student has been awarded the 2015 Princeton Race Relations race relations prize for promoting cross-cultural understanding in New Jersey.

“To promote cross-cultural understanding, and raise awareness for a dangerous trend that has unfortunately become ubiquitous among Muslim youth communities, I completed a series of three short stories that presented the negative psychological effects of bullying on post 9/11 Muslim-American youth,” Adam Mohsen-Breen, of Moorestown Friends School, told reporters.

Founded in 2003, the Princeton Prize in Race Relation grants the first place winner an award of $1,000. The prize, sponsored by Princeton University, honours high school-age students who have done notable work in advancing the cause of race relations.

The 17-year-old student won the award for the three children’s books he authored about Islam in order to challenge Muslim stereotypes and discourage bullying.

Each book, Grandfather’s Promise, Laila and Gabe, and Tarek’s Lesson, addresses a different type of bullying against Muslims and stresses community responsibility.

As a Muslim, and the son of a Cuban father and an Egyptian mother, Adam saw a need for picture books that would make children think critically about religion and race.

“These books detailed common bullying experiences of post-9/11 Muslim-American youth, and presented the specific strategies that my research found to be most effective in preventing this type of bullying,” Mohsen-Breen said.

“The stories I heard in focus groups, coupled with my own childhood experiences, formed the foundation of my children’s books.”

Focusing on the American Muslim community, the 17-year-old added, “I felt a responsibility to bring a greater understanding of problems facing Muslim-American youth, especially given the unprecedented level of media bias against Muslims that Americans are exposed to every day.”

Besides publishing books, the 17-year-old aims to introduce Muslim awareness into the school’s teaching curriculum.

“Through the presentation to my high school, I was able to educate my entire audience on the biased media perception of Islam, and familiarize my community with effective methods for preventing the daily micro-aggression that occur in classroom settings,” he said.

“In addition, I was able to educate many of my school’s faculty members on the issue of bullying in classroom settings; an issue that many teachers had not previously recognized the severity of,” Mohsen-Beer added.

While he believes Islam “at its core” is a nonviolent religion, “the most important thing is trying to get kids comfortable with their Muslim classmates.”

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