Muslim Girl Wrongly Called ‘Isis’ in Yearbook

Bayan Zehlif, 17, is a fairly ordinary American high school student – except for one thing: In her high school yearbook, she’s labeled as “Isis Phillips.”

When Zehlif saw what her school district claimed to be a “misunderstanding,” she was “saddened, disgusted, hurt and embarrassed.” She viewed the incident as Islamophobic and racist, and she’s not alone.

Zehlif, who chooses to wear a headscarf, is a practicing Muslim of Palestinian descent. In the current Islamophobic climate of the United States, it’s hard to believe that labeling a clearly Muslim student as “Isis” was an innocent mistake.

She took to social media with a photo of her yearbook and triggered an immediate response from the Muslim community and beyond.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has launched an investigation, and it expressed concerns about her safety. The group indicated that she wouldn’t be returning to school until the issue was resolved. Zehlif also spoke out at a press conference at their headquarters, articulating her experience and desire to stand up for people in similar situations.

Unfortunately, it’s not just supporters who are speaking out.

Fellow students at Los Osos High School have bullied her and made derisive comments, ranging from claims that she’s overreacting to the removal of supportive posters.

Residents of her hometown of Rancho Cucamonga are also split — and tellingly, this isn’t the first time her high school has been involved in an incident of racial bias. CAIR claims that there may have been other Islamophobic incidents. And the school newspaper once ran an article asking “Is the n-word offensive?”

In that climate, it’s understandable why Zehlif is concerned.

The district has come up with a range of explanations for the situation. They say that a student named Isis Phillips did in fact attend the school but later transferred out, and this may account for the “mislabeling.” Other students, dismissive of her concerns, insist that the yearbook often contains errors and that this is an innocent mistake.

No matter how error-prone the yearbook might be, however, a biased mistake like this bears closer scrutiny. If a student involved in the production of the yearbook took advantage of a notorious typo problem to slip this in, it’s a problem.

The district claims it is investigating the incident.

So far, less than 300 of the yearbooks have made their way out to the student body. The school says it is running a reprint with the correct name and recalling the yearbooks that have already been sent out. Students who do not return their yearbooks will not be permitted to walk at graduation.

Zehlif will at least be able to have a yearbook that prints her name correctly, but it will be marred by her experience.

Yearbooks are supposed to be treasured mementos for people to look through in future years as they recall their former classmates. For Zehlif, however, her yearbook will be a reminder of the controversy — and of her fight for justice.

Photo credit: Orange County Register / YouTube


Elisa F
Elisa F7 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Joon m.
Past Member 1 years ago

Your articles are very well written and for college essay papers

h masih
.1 years ago

While,if it was done on purpose,it was a classless thing to do,she is crying about name calling which is kind of childish.Also,you can't go punishing people when you don't have proof that it was on purpose. It looks like the entire school needs to start "educating"people about the basic social skills of tolerance,kindness,and,when people act ignorant,stop crying about childish shit

Manuela C.
Manuela C1 years ago

Shame!!! Poor girl...

Jua Z.
Past Member 1 years ago

ROBERTA G,How are my comments hate filled?Do your research before you run your mouth.That is exactly what they do.Also,you have to PROVE that this was done on purpose before punishing anyone.You can't just punish people because you THINK it was on purpose.In the states,I think that is still the law.If it was on purpose,it was stupid,but a much bigger deal is being made even if so.Ignorant people call others names.Consider the source,grow a pair,and stop letting minor things,however ignorant bother you.

Palestine Forever
.1 years ago

Wow! Maria L - you claim to be an advocate of animal welfare, yet you'd happily pour boiling water over this girl? If you can even contemplate such a thought you're no animal lover at all. In fact, you're just a nasty little hater of anyone and anything that doesn't regard YOU as its lord and master. (I bet you squash spiders, too.)

Dominic C, you're so right - if this was viewed as an anti-semitic slur the whole situation would be very quickly resolved. And no-one here or elsewhere would dare to make such hate-filled comments.

Peggy B.
Peggy B1 years ago

The ignorance and tolerance in the US is unbelievable. The media promotes the ignorance. Why? Are they being paid by certain factions of the 1%? That's my conspiracy theory........

william Miller
william M1 years ago


Sierra B.
Sierra B1 years ago

Clearly this wasnt an accident. Because, if I am correct, and I know I am, a group of students in the school are responsible for designing the yearbook. Someone clearly did that on purpose, and they need to be punished severely for it