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Teacher Suspended For Making 'We Don't Negotiate With Terrorists' Comment To Muslim Student

Teacher Suspended For Making 'We Don't Negotiate With Terrorists' Comment To Muslim Student
Eyewitness News ABC7NY/YouTube

At a high school in New Jersey, a teacher directed an Islamophobic comment at an Arab Muslim student in front of the rest of the class.

Mohammed Zubi, 17-year-old senior at Ridgefield Memorial High School, was in math class when he asked the assistant teacher if he could finish the assignment at home.

The teacher responded:

"We don't negotiate with terrorists."

The Arab American student told WABC-TV:

"So I look around in shock, there's people laughing, and there's other people in shock, and I turn around and ask my friend, 'did he really just say that?' and she said 'yes'."

According to CNN, the teacher came up to Zubi later, patted him on the back and said he didn't mean it like that.

Zubi said:

"In my head I'm just like, what other way could he have meant that?"

You can see local news footage here:

The district gave out a statement about the incident with the as yet unnamed teacher:

"While the District cannot legally comment on personnel or student matters, the public should be aware that the District immediately suspended the staff member while it is conducting a full investigation."

Interim Superintendent of Ridgefield Public Schools Letizia Pantoliano said they will be pursuing legal remedies against the staff member.

The Ridgefield Police did not find a hate crime associated with the incident. Ridgefield Police Chief Thomas Gallagher said the case was "referred back to the original agency."

The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:

"We are very concerned about these allegations and urge the school district to take appropriate corrective measures following a swift and transparent investigation."
"This type of insensitive language by an authority figure is unacceptable because it perpetuates stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims."

They've provided resources for teachers to better address Islamophobic and identity-based, targeted bullying in the classroom.

Maksut told CNN:

" Education around Islam and Muslims for educators is necessary because even 20 years after 9/11, these ugly stereotypes continue to show up in our classroom, and that's unacceptable."

Because of the incident, Zubi—a senior and captain of the soccer team—said he isn't comfortable going back to school.

"I don't feel like going back, I'm really uncomfortable."
"I don't want to see anyone, and I've been in my room all day—don't want to see my friends, especially after what that teacher said to me."

He eventually went back to school on Monday.

Zubi's mother works for the school and his brother, Anas Zubi, graduated from the same high school.

Anas found the comment disturbing.

"To see my little brother, a minority, 17 years old, to hear a comment like that, you know, it broke my heart,."

Zubi told CNN:

"I want a public apology to me and my family."

Masksut said:

"It's almost unbelievable, we're left speechless, like why would a teacher say this to a student?"

The superintendent would not make further comments about the case and said it is a 'personnel matter.'