Noora runs into the house and slams the door behind her. She bounds up the stairs and her mother hears her bedroom door slam. She audibly sighs sadly thinking to herself, “She had another bad day at school. I wish she would talk to me about it.” Noora curls up on her bed and cries quietly wondering what she did to deserve what she goes through at school everyday. Sometimes she even finds herself wishing she could just get a physical “beat down” rather than suffer through the daily emotional torment of being teased, ostracized and singled out for abuse. She feels as though her mother won’t understand what she’s going through and she also doesn’t want to disappoint her by confessing that she just doesn’t know how to handle the bullies. She feels hopeless and she doesn’t know to whom to turn so she cries quietly in her room, and each day holds in more and more of the torment she faces.
Bullying was once viewed as a necessary rite of passage of childhood, something children simply must endure. However, bullying is not simply something children will mature out of; rather, bullying can result in serious harm and long-term consequences. Bullying can take different forms, including
- Physical bullying: includes hitting, punching, kicking and other types of physical harm, as well as destruction of a child’s property.
- Verbal bullying: includes teasing, name-calling, taunting and racial slurs, as well as spreading gossip or malicious rumors.
- Cyberbullying: includes harassing emails, instant messages and text messages, as well as intimidating or threatening websites, blogs or posts.
Parents often feel completely powerless as they witness their child’s tears day-after-day, as much a part of the afterschool routine as homework. With the advent of technology, bullying no longer occurs exclusively within the walls of schools. Rather, social media has provided another opportunity to bullies who seek to demean others. Home is no longer a safe haven for victims of bullying; a Facebook status can hurt just as much, if not more, than hearing the typed words spoken aloud.
The Victims of Bullying
Being the victim of bullying can evoke a great deal of shame in children and teens (and in adults as well, since bullying is not an epidemic that exclusively targets children). Therefore, your child may not confide in you and may go through great pains to hide the fact that she/he is being bullied. The signs may not be as visible as a black eye; although children are often physically intimidated, bullying can be also be targeted in a way that leaves psychological and emotional bruises. Some things to keep a lookout for, which may signal that your child is being bullied includes (but is not limited to): damage to personal belongings, unexplained injuries, a decline in academic performance, physical complaints (i.e. stomach aches, headaches, tiredness, etc.), reluctance when going to school or riding the bus, few friends, or a noticeable change in sleeping or eating habits.
There are certain qualities that may make some children more susceptible to bullying. These include the following characteristics: cautious, sensitive, quiet, withdrawn, shy, anxious, insecure, low self-esteem, unhappy, lack of a close friend, relate better to adults than peers, physically weaker than peers. Bullying is a cycle, so these characteristics can be just as much a consequence as a partial cause of being victimized. There is also another subset of people within this bullying cycle who are characterized as bully/victims, who are both bullies and victims of bullying simultaneously. Bully/victims tend to experience a greater variety of symptomology including both internalized (anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts) and externalized (hyperactivity, rule-breaking) issues.
Although the focus of prevention and interventions are often on victims of bullying, it is important to provide support to bullies as well. As the Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is oppressed.” The Prophet was asked: “It is right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?” He replied: “By preventing him from oppressing others.”(Ṣahīh Bukhāri, Volume 3, Ḥadīth 624)
From this ḥadīth, we learn the importance of helping those who are oppressed but, even more profoundly, the need to assist oppressors by stopping them from committing this infringement on the rights of others. Bullies are often misconstrued as people who simply take pleasure in the pain of others. However, research has found that some are quite complex and somewhat of a mystery. Many research studies have found that bullies are more likely to exhibit behavioural issues including aggressiveness, hyperactivity, attention deficits and conduct problems. However, contrary to what is normally considered of bullies, one research study found that they suffer from depression, anxiety, psychosomatic disorders, and eating disorders to the same extent as those who were victimized by their bullying. Some things that may signal that your child is bullying others include: being aggressive with others, gets sent to detention often, has unexplained new belongings or extra money, quickly blames others, refuses to accept responsibility for actions, and has a need to win or be the best at everything.
Verbal, Emotional & Psychological (Nonphysical) Bullying
Interactions between individuals, from an Islamic point of view, are governed by the fundamental right of sanctity of life, honor, and property. Therefore, anything that compromises these rights should be stopped. In Sūrat’l- Ḥujurāt (49:10-12), Allah says, “Verily, the believers are brothers…
- let not some people mock others, for they may be better than themselves,
- nor (let) women (mock) women who may be better than themselves.
- And do not slander yourselves, nor revile by (offensive) nicknames…
- O you who believe, avoid (indulging in) much suspicion; truly, some suspicion is a sin.
- And do not spy or backbite one another; would any of you like to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would abhor that.
- And be conscious of Allah; indeed, Allah is Relenting, Merciful.”
These verses emphasise the non-physical face of bullying. Verbal and emotional bullying can have even greater and longer-lasting negative effects on the victims than physical bullying. Many of us may have grown up asserting the maxim, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” however, we soon realise that sometimes words can hurt more than anything else.
It is incredibly important to arm our children, our students, and ourselves with the proper methods of coping with bullying. This is not simply a rite of passage that children must endure. Furthermore, the issues brought about by bullying can quickly, and dangerously, spiral out of control. Seek professional help if you feel someone is being bullied.
Use these helplines to find more information and advice on bullying
If you think that bullying is just a part of everyday school life, you’re wrong. No-one deserves to be bullied and you shouldn’t ignore the problem. Government website offering advice and information for young people and parent on how to combat bullying.
ACAS – Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service
Helpline: 0300 123 1100
Bullying and harassment at work- Guidance for employees: acas.org.uk
Everyone should be treated with dignity and respect at work. Bullying and harassment of any kind are in no-one’s interest and should not be tolerated in the workplace, but if you are being bullied or harassed it can be difficult to know what to do about it. This leaflet gives employees basic information about bullying and harassment, summarises the responsibilities of employers and outlines some of the options open to you and points you to sources of further information and advice.
Bullying UK (Part of Family Lives)
Helpline: 0808 800 2222
BullyingUK part of Family Lives have launched a new LiveOnline Support service for every member of the family to get advice direct from our Expert team, our advisors are standing by to support you with a wide range of bullying problems.
National Bullying Helpline
Tel: 0845 22 55 787
The helpline (a non Charity) is a Voluntary Organisation, is a household name and continues to provide practical and timely support to both adults and children; those bullied in the community, the home, the playground and/or the workplace. In fact the helpline is unique and today it is the only organisation of its kind run by qualified HR professionals. This website is now a central source of useful and practical information. Whether you are the bully, the bullied, the employer, the employee, a dispute resolution service provider, an academic or just a member of the public seeking ‘up to date’ information – you will find practical support here on this site.
Parent’s Helpline: 020 7823 5430 (Mon-Tues 10-5pm)
Whatever your problem or concern we are here to support you. All problems, whether big or small, will be answered with the same level of care and concern. Your call will be treated as confidential and you can remain anonymous.
Helpline: 0800 1111
ChildLine is a counselling service for children and young people. You can contact ChildLine in these ways: You can phone on 0800 1111, send us an email, have a 1-2-1 chatwith us, send a message to Ask Sam and you can post messages to the ChildLine message boards. You can contact ChildLine about anything – no problem is too big or too small. If you are feeling scared or out of control or just want to talk to someone you can contact ChildLine.
This article can be found on MuslimMatters.Org