Muslim student feels 'vulnerable' after being misidentified as 'Isis' in yearbook

Concerns raised by Los Osos High School senior Bayan Zehlif and her family are indicative of the vulnerability many American Muslims currently feel.

A California student expressed disgust and embarrassment after her picture in the yearbook was incorrectly captioned "Isis Phillips," highlighting the vulnerability many American Muslims currently feel.

Los Osos High School student Bayan Zehlif posted a picture on Facebook and Twitter showing the caption, which the high school's principal says was a "misprint." A student who worked on the yearbook told Reuters a student by the name Isis Phillips had transferred away from the school earlier in the year. But to Bayan and many American Muslims, the juxtaposition of the name Isis underneath the smiling face of a girl wearing a hijab is more than an unfortunate mistake.

The name Isis has been around at least since the time of the ancient Egyptians. Since 2014, however, the abbreviation has become associated with the Islamic State terror group that has taken swaths of Syria and Iraq and inspired terrorist attacks around the globe.

Muslims around the world have found themselves struggling to differentiate themselves from the brutal militant group in non-Muslims' eyes. And in many countries, including the United States, there have been reports of Muslims facing discrimination, hatred, and even violence in retaliation for the acts of the extremists.

To Bayan and her family, it is hard to believe the misidentification was a simple clerical error, given the current climate.

"I am extremely saddened, disgusted, hurt and embarrassed that the Los Osos High School yearbook was able to get away with this," Bayan, who identifies herself as Palestinian, wrote on Facebook. "Apparently, I am 'Isis' in the yearbook. The school reached out to me and had the audacity to say that this was a typo. I beg to differ, let's be real."

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said its legal team would meet with the family and school officials Monday, and seek an investigation of the incident, a spokesman told Reuters.

Bayan's reaction mirrors the feelings of vulnerability pockets of the American Muslim population feel as politicians and the public react to perceived security concerns due to radical Islamic terrorism.

Khairuldeen Makhzoomi, for example, was removed from a flight last month after another passenger expressed concern at his speaking Arabic on the phone.

Mr. Makhzoomi said he told the Southwest employee, "This is what Islamophobia got this country into." Makhzoomi said that angered the employee, and that he was then told he could not get back on the plane.

Anti-Islamic sentiment has risen considerably in the past year, largely in response to terrorist attacks in San Bernardino, Calif., Brussels, and Paris, and further stoked by political rhetoric during the current presidential election.

Late last year, presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump called for a "complete shutdown on all Muslims entering the country" and reiterated those calls after the Brussels bombings. Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, also a presidential candidate at the time, called for patrols of Muslim neighborhoods.

A student at the Rancho Cucamonga high school who worked on the yearbook insisted the printing was an honest mistake, and said he believed Bayan's reaction was "out of proportion."

"We have a campus of 3200 students. Their are going to be imperfections (sic)," the student, Trevor Santellan, told the New York Daily News in a Twitter message.

For its part, the school has apologized and is looking to rectify the situation.

"Los Osos High School is taking every step possible to correct and investigate a regrettable misprint discovered in the yearbook. We sincerely apologize," principal Susan Petrocelli said in a statement on Twitter.

This report contains material from Reuters.


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