Osama Al-Najjar, just wants to be accepted as a normal 16-year-old by his peers and teachers. Sharing the first name of the world’s most wanted terrorist is making his teen years unbearable. After being tormented by teachers, school officials and students, the honor student attempted suicide. His pain shows the difficulty many Muslims continue to face in New York City after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
The New York Post is reporting that the family of Osama Al-Najjar is suing the New York City Department of Education for discrimination. In papers filed in Brooklyn’s federal court, the family alleges that the teen faced racial and religious discrimination at Staten Island’s Tottenville High School.
Al-Najjar enrolled in the school three years ago. The verbal attacks started when a math teacher referred to the Muslim teen as a descendent of “bin Laden”. The lawsuit also claims a security guard for the school told the student “we don’t want bin Laden’s son in our school”.
The Post says that the teenager’s mother Suad Abuhasna has alerted school officials numerous of times about the treatment of her son. Her complaints went unanswered and the treatment of Al-Najjar had gotten worse.
After had gotten beaten up by two students, an assistant principle suggested that Al-Najjar transfer to a Muslim school.
The harassed student cut out of school and disappeared in March of 2006. His mother tells nypost.com that in July while talking to her son; he broke a cd and began slicing at his wrist.
With feelings of guilt and pain for her son, his mother goes on to say:
“It’s not only terrible to see your baby going through this. It’s also the guilt you feel because I gave him that name and I chose that school.”
Reuters reports Al-Najjar has legally changed his first name to Sammy. He now attends school in Brooklyn. Suad Abuhasna and her family migrated to the United States from Jordan in 1999. Her eldest son served in the United States Navy.
Also according to Reuters, a Columbia University study shows that there is an increasing distrust and fear of Muslims from Americans since the 9-11 attacks.
“There’s become this culture of Islamophobia in American society, unfortunately, kids are not immune.” Arsalan Iftikhar, national legal director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations tells Reuters.
Reiter , C. Reuters(2007/06/08). New York is hell for young Osama. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from Yahoo! News Web site: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070608/us_nm/usa_muslims_osama_dc_1
COHEN, S. (2007/06/11). TALE OF 2 OSAMAS. Retrieved June 11, 2007, from NYPOST.com Web site: http://www.nypost.com/seven/06112007/news/regionalnews/tale_of_2_osamas_regionalnews_stefanie_cohen.htm