It’s Hard to Be Out Tere (Part 2): Let’s Beat Bullying

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This is the second part of a series of three articles about how young  Muslims can develop strength, courage and resilience in the face of peer  pressure and bullying. Part 1 dealt with the impact of peer  pressure and how you can stay firm. This part provides you with  practical tips on how to deal with bullying.

“One’s dignity may be assaulted, vandalized and cruelly mocked, but  it can never be taken away unless it is surrendered.” [Michael J.  Fox]

Talking about bullying is not easy. The thought of someone innocent being  mocked, ridiculed and belittled, a friend or classmate, a sibling, maybe  yourself, fills our hearts with rage and indignation, and makes it hard to  distinguish facts from emotions. Above all, we want bullying to stop, but  despite decades of anti-bullying programs and laws, the phenomenon has only  increased, up to a point that one in four school children now report  being bullied regularly.

The reality is that bullying has always been around, and will  continue to do so. The early history of Islam has witnessed some  of the toughest and most cruel bullies! Remember Abu  Jahl, Abu Lahab and their wives? What the believers had in common is  that they stayed calm and patient, didn’t lose their courage and  repelled evil deeds with good ones and forgiveness. The dunya will  never see perfection and people will continue to hurt one another as long as  they’re in this world. At the same time, people who have hurt one another at  some point, can end up becoming friends:

“The good deed and the evil deed cannot be equal. Repel evil with which  is better, then verily he, between whom and you there was enmity, will become as  though he was a close friend. But none is granted this, except those who are  patient, and none is granted it except the owner of the great  portion.”  [Qur’an: Chapter 41, Verses 34-35]

This eternal wisdom should be our first clue in looking for solutions to  bullying. Real empowerment comes with patiently doing what’s right. Finding  solutions to bullying is not a matter of one-size-fits-all , but In sha Allah,  the tips and advice below may help you to deal with bullying wisely:

Power to You!

Even when others try to assault your dignity, you should know  that you are the one who owns it and it cannot be surrendered unless you give it  away. Know that you have choices. Know that you have the power and  courage to deal with bullying wisely and do what’s right.

1. Cool is Not Enough

Stay ice-cold! A bully tries to establish a superior  position by putting others down. Boys and girls may bully in different ways, but  the goal is the same: making you feel inferior. Now how does  a bully know that he or she was even a little bit successful in putting you  down? Right: anger, tears, frustration, defensiveness, and many other things,  big or small, that show your emotions are triggered. You are upset, and they’re  having fun. Stay ice-cold, ignore the bullying and shrug it off  by  realizing that people can say what they want and this doesn’t affect the truth  one bit. You can’t control their words and actions, but you can refuse  to give them an audience. This sounds very straight-forward, but  putting it into practice – consistently – requires a lot of patience and  self-control. What can help you to keep your cool and stay  empowered?

No JADE-ing! Do you remember this one from the previous part? JADE-ing (justify, argue,  defend, explain), even when done in a calm way, lets the bully know  that he/she has triggered something, which is exactly what they’re looking for.  For example, when people mock you, call you gay because you don’t date  girls, it sounds much more powerful to say: “You can believe what you  want about me”, than: “That’s not true, you know I’m Muslim and so I don’t  date”, even when you say it in a calm way.

Throw in some humor.  Learn to look at yourself and life’s circumstances  with humor. It’s a big stress-reliever and can work well in tense  situations. Seeing the humor in things doesn’t mean that you  belittle yourself or your problems, but rather it enables you to diffuse the  stress and hurt that come with bullying. Say something funny when others insult  you, not in a mocking way, but in a playful, jesting way, it also lets bullies  know that they haven’t upset you and will take the wind out of their sails.

Use kindness as a weapon. Maybe the last  thing you want to do is be nice to someone who torments and harasses you, but,  like in the Qur’anic verse above, kindness may change the bully’s  attitude and take the enmity out of your relationship. And it shows  them that you are not brought down by their words and actions. Also remember  here to stay cool, don’t be enthusiastic in trying to please a bully, but calmly  and coolly return their bad words or actions with something good. Tell your  classmate that you like her new hair style when she calls you a rag  head. Warning: Using kindness as a weapon does not mean that you  should give in to the bully’s demands, like giving them money. Never do  this!

2. Connect with People and Protect Your Vulnerability

The ones who are most vulnerable to the effects of bullying are the ones who  care the most about relationships with their peers. Try to establish meaningful, healthy connections with a  variety of people, including adults. The more positive relationships  you have, the less you will be affected by bullying.  

3. Snitches and Tattletales: When to Call for Adult Intervention?

As a general rule, don’t tell on a bully when there’s no serious harm or  threat. It will get the bully into trouble, and although that may seem  just what he or she deserves, it will continue the cycle of bullying because it  will feed the bully’s anger and frustrations and make him/her more determined to  get back at you.  But, make no mistake about  it, when someone seriously wants to harm you, you should get adult  authorities involved right away. No one has the right to harm you  and this should be reported immediately. When bullies threaten to harm  you,  make a safety plan together with an adult you trust.

The Bystander: How Can You Help?

Just like the one being bullied, bystanders shouldn’t give  bullies any audience at all. Don’t become angry or upset. Does  that mean that you shouldn’t do anything? No, but your focus should  be on the victim. You can help by talking to the one being  bullied, keep him/her company or help them to calmly walk away from the  scene. Don’t be afraid that by doing this you will be the bully’s next  victim, it’s exactly this fear that keeps the bully in the dominant  position.

No Escape from Cyber Bullying?

An increasing portion of bullying takes place online, perhaps making you feel  that there’s no escape from the harassment. But just as with other forms of  bullying, you have choices and you have power. The tips for the  ice-cold approach will go a long way here too. Other than that,  there are a couple of things to keep in mind for your safety:

  • Never give out any information that might lead to stealing your online  identity
  • Never, ever agree to meet a person who contacted you over the  internet!

The next and last part of this series will focus on what parents can do  to help their kids and teens to stay strong, courageous and resilient.  Meanwhile, I’d love to know if you’ve tried the tips I’ve shared so far and how  they’ve helped you!




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