I WATCHED HER face and the blue gray reflection of transient clouds in her eyes as she gazed distantly out the window. She whispered heavily, “You know, sometimes I think maybe it’s better we don’t have any kids.” My throat tightened as I fumbled around for words. My friend and her husband have been married for years. In the course of our conversations she sometimes speaks of the future saying, “If we have kids, inshâ’Allah…” She hasn’t lost hope in the providence of the best Provider — but that day she revealed an angle from which the possibility of never having a baby of her own might not be so bad.

An Unstable World

We had been reflecting over the current state of affairs. Despite all the apparent “progress” of humankind, we are nevertheless plagued by instability. In nations like the USA, where people have felt safe and secure for decades, you’ll now find worry and fear. From the frequent occurrence of crazed school-shooters, to deranged political terrorists, it seems anyone can be a target. Add to that the increase in anti-Islam vitriol and it stands to reason that Muslims would be fearful for the children born into these volatile circumstances.

Kids and Islamophobia

Millions of dollars are poured into anti-Islam campaigns every year. Intentionally or not, coverage of the horrific events happening around the world is biased against Islam. When Muslims are killed in terrorist attacks – there is hardly a murmur in the mainstream media. In what little coverage does exist, the Muslim victims are usually identified by their citizenship. However, when supposed Muslims are the perpetrators of such attacks, Islam is brought front and center.

Muslim kids are growing up hearing the words “Muslim” and “Islam” recurrently paired with other words like “terrorist” “radical” “murder” “bomb” and other repulsive terms. Islam; associated with warmth, peace and hope at home, is branded as something sinister outside. What will happen to these children whose very identities are being torn apart?

Fodder for Schoolyard Bullies

According to Mother Jones, the rise in bullying of Muslim students is a reflection of the rising Islamophobia, “The most recent FBI data indicates that hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation have dropped across the board—with the exception of crimes against Muslim Americans.” [1]

Being the target of regular aggression can lead to depression, anxiety, increased feelings of sadness and loneliness, loss of interest in activities, decreased academic achievement and increased suicide risk. Researchers found that any involvement in bullying boded poorly in adulthood. [2]

A small percentage of bullying victims might retaliate through violent measures. The last thing we want as Muslims is for our children to grow up to be unhappy, unstable or to thirst for revenge.

Be Proactive

You and I cannot sit idly by, merely hoping that the next generation of Muslims will be well-balanced, strong individuals who will remain steadfast upon the guidance of Allah. The points I mentioned above provoke a sense of urgency. How will we have discharged our responsibilities as parents and elders? Will we take it with strength and determination, or allow laziness and fear to deceive us? Previous generations had to struggle to maintain Islam in their lives and communities. With the help of Allah, we can do a lot to ensure that our children grow up feeling secure, empowered and proud to be Muslim. We have to take action and it starts in each and every one of our homes.

Family is the Bedrock

We cannot guarantee that our children will ultimately be of the muminîn. The Quran attests that

There is no compulsion in religion. [Sûrat Al-Baqarah, 2:256]

We know that even God’s prophets –the best of mankind– had family members who rejected God, like the son of Noah. Nevertheless, it remains our duty to provide the best opportunity we possibly can: a home that is wholesome, peaceful, conducive to learning and firmly grounded in faith. Practicing Islam holistically in our family life while helping children establish a strong sense of self-worth, identity and resilience are all part of fulfilling that trust.

Our children’s view of themselves begins with how we interact with them. [3] Listen attentively, and talk with them in a warm, positive way. Model ways to discuss things like anger, frustration, and sadness. Discuss what’s happening in the world age-appropriately. Present hypothetical situations to help them exercise responding constructively. Ask, “What would you do if someone said cruel things to us because we are Muslims?” Discuss what feelings might develop. Would they feel scared? Angry? Embarrassed? Let them know that it’s natural to feel emotions. What’s important is how we react to those emotions. [4]

Childhood Development and the Prophet’s Methodology

Islam promotes a moral, compassionate and conscientious existence. Parents who model empathy are far more likely to see good moral behavior in their children than parents who habitually resort to harsh physical punishment, scolding and criticizing.

Kindness, empathy and consistent positive reinforcement are the most powerful tools for promoting moral conscience in children. [5] These ideas are strongly demonstrated in the methodology of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ for raising a Muslim child, grounded in mercy, leniency, patience and a sense of duty to God.

When a man told him, ‘I have got ten children. I have not kissed any of them.’ Allah’s Messenger responded unapprovingly: The uncompassionate will not be treated with compassion. (Bukhâri)

Establishing a Clear Self-Image

Our kids need to grow up knowing what it means to be Muslim – that there is more to our existence than meets the eye. Life comes with trials and tribulations, loss and difficulty. Our children must be able to see themselves and the world clearly and realistically.

Speak honestly about your child’s behavior, but avoid criticizing their character. Teach them that as Muslims, Allah has given us the opportunity to be the best of creation, and has left open the door to improvement so long as we live. Allah is Al-Ghafûr, the most forgiving. He wants us to constantly turn back to Him and better ourselves. So, avoid putting children down and instead build them up. Praise their character while correcting their actions.

Children need to know that being accepted by society is not what matters. A person with a strong feeling of self-worth and who feels secure in their identity, reinforced by a strong family bond will be more likely to have the kind of fortitude and resilience necessary to be a healthy force for good in the world, even when the environment is unfriendly. Above all, we live for Allah. Teach children who He is. With the love and acceptance of the Almighty, the opinion of the people looks very small in comparison.

Integration Not Disintegration

Integration need not be at the cost of our Muslim identity. In my American family, we maintain our practice of Islam without compromise, while being fully integrated and participatory in our society.

Kids need to know that they don’t have to forsake their values for the sake of fitting in. Allah said regarding people who ridicule Islam,

And when you see those who engage in [offensive] discourse concerning Our verses, then turn away from them until they enter into another conversation. [Sûrat Al-Anʿâm, 6:68]

There is no harm in interacting with people so long as they are not engaging in what Allah has forbidden. We avoid what is bad or may lead to evil, but that doesn’t necessitate becoming reclusive or antisocial.

The Role of Schools

Research suggests,

Kids who attend faith-based schools are less alienated from their society than kids who attend public schools, where they feel part of a singled-out minority.

Charles Glenn, a School of Education professor of educational leadership found,

Those kids who feel securely supported in their identity, while being prepared to function effectively in American society, are not as alienated as they might be if they were like (Ahmed Mohamed), who was treated like a young terrorist (when he brought a homemade clock to school).” [6]

I can attest to the fact that Islamic Schooling does wonders for my children’s self-esteem, feeling of belonging and pride in Islam. Because of being surrounded by supportive staff and other Muslim children, they never have the feeling of being ostracized or ridiculed because of their faith.

Not everyone is able to choose private Islamic school though. For some, homeschooling is the next best option, but homeschooling is not for everyone either. Don’t worry, public school does not necessarily mean certain doom.

Many Muslims do just fine in the public school system. My husband grew up in NYC public schools, at a time when Muslims were scarce. Alhumdulillâh, he had a strong family foundation and parents who were closely involved. He’s been committed to studying and disseminating Islam throughout his adult life. There are plenty of steadfast, successful Muslims who were educated in the public schools. So don’t despair – be there.

Passivity is not an Option

Let’s resolve to be listeners, companions –people our children feel they can confide in and know will always be there for them. If we are too distracted, we may be remorseful when we realize it’s too late.

We do live in tumultuous, uncertain times, but we mustn’t regret or fear having children. Our children can grow to be healthy, self-assured adults, committed to Allah. We have been entrusted with the children of our Ummah. It’s up to us to decide how to discharge this weighty trust. Will we take it with determination, will we follow Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and be merciful, yet firm guides? Or will this amâna slip from our hands?

Allah has told us in the Quran to affirm our identity when He said,

Say: “Bear witness that we are Muslims [submitting to Him].” [Sûrat Âl ʿImrân, 3:64]

Take that identity with a firm grasp and let the children in your life see the way it uplifts you and sustains you through thick and thin. Inshâ’Allah, there is a bright future ahead –for our children, and for Islam.

———————-

[1] http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/12/muslim-kids-bullying-schools-teachers-islamophobia

http://www.stopbullying.gov/at-risk/effects/

[2] Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/02/20/long-term-effects-of-bullying_n_2728190.html

[3] http://parenthood.library.wisc.edu/Popenoe/Popenoe-Modeling.html

[4] See more at: http://www.livescience.com/14144-parenting-tips-compassion-esteem.html

[5] http://www.vision.org/visionmedia/child-development-core-competencies-moral-system/67422.aspx

[6] http://www.bu.edu/today/2016/inside-us-islamic-schools/

danielle loduca

Danielle LoDuca is a third generation artist and author. Drawing inspiration from personal life experiences, her writings highlight the familiarity of Islam in a climate that increasingly portrays the Islamic faith as strange. She holds a BFA from Pratt Institute and has pursued postgraduate studies in Arabic and Islamic Studies at the Foundation for Knowledge and Development. LoDuca’s work has been featured in media publications in the US and abroad and she is currently working on a book that offers a thought-provoking American Muslim perspective, in contrast to the negative narratives regarding Islam and Muslims prevalent in the media today.

17 Comments

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Mohamed Ameen

    Mohamed Ameen

    July 13, 2016 - - 1:54 pm

    Powerful article

  • Lissa A

    Lissa A'isha Montana

    July 13, 2016 - - 2:57 pm

    That’s how I feel.. What kind of world is this to bring my innocent baby to..? What future is there for him/ her..??! With a bunch of selfish, soulless humans.. No thanks. People SUCK lol ?

  • Lissa A

    Lissa A'isha Montana

    July 13, 2016 - - 2:57 pm

    That’s how I feel.. What kind of world is this to bring my innocent baby to..? What future is there for him/ her..??! With a bunch of selfish, soulless humans.. No thanks. People SUCK lol ?

  • Lissa A

    Lissa A'isha Montana

    July 13, 2016 - - 2:57 pm

    That’s how I feel.. What kind of world is this to bring my innocent baby to..? What future is there for him/ her..??! With a bunch of selfish, soulless humans.. No thanks. People SUCK lol ?

  • Lissa A

    Lissa A'isha Montana

    July 13, 2016 - - 2:57 pm

    That’s how I feel.. What kind of world is this to bring my innocent baby to..? What future is there for him/ her..??! With a bunch of selfish, soulless humans.. No thanks. People SUCK lol ?

  • Theresa Corbin

    Theresa Corbin

    July 13, 2016 - - 3:00 pm

    Totally!

  • Theresa Corbin

    Theresa Corbin

    July 13, 2016 - - 3:00 pm

    Totally!

  • Theresa Corbin

    Theresa Corbin

    July 13, 2016 - - 3:00 pm

    Totally!

  • Hina Qureshi

    Hina Qureshi

    July 13, 2016 - - 3:58 pm

    I’ve also had these feelings as well. The way the world is I just don’t want to have any more children and sometimes feel bad for the 2 I have. Hopefully sending the girls to Islamic school will keep them from feeling bad about who they are or feeling like outsiders.

    • Theresa Corbin

      Theresa Corbin

      July 13, 2016 - - 3:59 pm

      InshaAllah. Maybe our parents felt the same way, but obviously for different reasons.

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