Discrimination Complaint Filed for Black Muslim Arab American Teacher
Discrimination Complaint-The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has recently lodged a discrimination complaint on behalf of Hajur El-Haggan, a Black Muslim Arab American middle school math teacher in Maryland. El-Haggan, who has been employed by the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) since 2015, was placed on administrative leave due to her email signature, which contained a controversial phrase expressing support for Palestinian rights.
Discrimination Complaint-The complaint alleges that El-Haggan faced discrimination on the basis of her race and religion, among other factors. This article delves into the details of the incident, examining the school district’s policies, the accusations against the email signature, and the broader implications for freedom of speech and expression.
The Email Signature and Administrative Leave:
Discrimination Complaint-On November 20, El-Haggan was informed by the principal at Argyle Middle School that she was being placed on immediate leave. The reason cited was her email signature, which featured the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” The complaint filed by CAIR describes this as a call for Palestinian freedom, dignity, and self-determination, emphasizing the right of Palestinians to exist and move freely within the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.
Controversial Nature of the Phrase:
Discrimination Complaint-The complaint acknowledges that the phrase has been criticized by mainstream Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, for being “antisemitic.” Critics argue that the slogan has been used by anti-Israel voices, including supporters of organizations such as Hamas. The article explores the recent scrutiny faced by this phrase, particularly during pro-Palestinian rallies amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.
School District Policies and Inconsistencies:
Discrimination Complaint-MCPS’s policy on email best practices and digital communications, available on its website, urges employees to maintain professional email signatures and avoid including “special stationery, quotations, or sayings.” The complaint alleges that while El-Haggan was informed that including political or non-political quotes in an email signature violated the MCPS Employee Code of Conduct, the policy was selectively enforced. The article provides evidence, including photos and screenshots of other teachers’ email signatures containing political and social justice quotes, to support this claim.
CAIR’s Response and News Conference:
Discrimination Complaint-CAIR held a news conference in front of the Montgomery County Public Schools Board of Education to announce the filing of the discrimination complaint.
Rawda Fawaz, El-Haggan’s attorney, emphasized the differential treatment faced by El-Haggan compared to her non-Muslim, non-Arab colleagues who engaged in similar conduct.
El-Haggan, during the conference, expressed her willingness to remove the controversial phrase from her email signature, but the county reportedly denied this offer.
Administrative Leave and Lack of Communication:
Discrimination Complaint-Despite El-Haggan’s offer to address the concerns by removing the controversial phrase, she remains on administrative leave pending an investigation.
The article notes that, after 18 days, the county has not reached out to El-Haggan, contrary to assurances that someone would contact her. This lack of communication raises questions about the transparency and due process in addressing the situation.
Support and Advocacy:
During the news conference, El-Haggan spoke passionately about her advocacy for peace and freedom for Palestinians, tying it to her identity as a Muslim and an Arab.
She highlighted the support she has received from her administration team, co-workers, and school, contrasting it with the perceived discrimination from the county.
Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza and Personal Advocacy:
El-Haggan referred to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, citing the conflict between Israel and Hamas. She expressed her commitment to advocating for peace and freedom for Palestinians, linking it to her core identity.
The article provides context to the conflict in Gaza, including the number of casualties and the impact on women and children, according to the Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza.
Pro-Palestinian Organization’s Perspective:
Evie Frankl, a member of the pro-Palestinian organization Jewish Voice for Peace, spoke at the news conference, characterizing El-Haggan’s situation as discrimination for expressing support for Palestinians in the face of a devastating war.
Frankl questioned why support for Palestinian lives is considered more controversial than support for other marginalized groups.
Legal Basis of Discrimination Complaint:
The discrimination complaint argues that El-Haggan was discriminated against based on her race and religion, among other factors, and asserts that the county’s actions violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the Maryland Fair Employment Practices Act.
The article examines the legal aspects of the complaint, emphasizing the alleged inconsistency in the application of the MCPS Employee Code of Conduct.
Wider Pattern of Bias Incidents:
CAIR claims to have received more than 200 bias incident reports from Muslims and Arabs in Maryland since October 7.
Many of these incidents are reported to involve discrimination against individuals expressing support for Palestinians. The article places El-Haggan’s case within the context of a broader pattern of bias incidents.
Conclusion and Call for Action:
El-Haggan concludes the news conference by urging the county to take steps to ensure protection against discrimination for Arab and Muslim educators. She emphasizes her desire to return to teaching and expresses the profound impact that being away from the classroom has on her.
The article closes by highlighting the importance of addressing the broader issues related to freedom of speech, expression, and protection against discrimination in educational institutions.