What Muslim Parents Tell Their Children

By Naazish YarKhan on 03:31 pm May 15, 2013
Indonesian muslim women and children take part in a special morning prayer celebrating the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival at Bali's Bajra Sandhi monument and park in Denpasar on August 30, 2011. (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)

Indonesian muslim women and children take part in a special morning prayer celebrating the start of the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival at Bali’s Bajra Sandhi monument and park in Denpasar on August 30, 2011. (AFP Photo/Sonny Tumbelaka)

Chicago. Like all parents, Muslim parents have their fair share of do’s and don’ts for their children. Unlike most parents though, terrorism and how to handle its misguided association with Islam figures in some of our talks.

In the wake of the Boston bombings and given that one of the suspects was only a few years older than my own boy, the need for us to talk with Yousuf took on even greater urgency. Conversations usually begin with “most Americans recognize that not all Muslims are violent just because a few are,” and progress to “but I still don’t want you to talk about bombs, guns or shooting, even if it’s a game you’re discussing.”

These are tough conversations to have with an 11-year old, but they’re discussions we cannot avoid. As Muslim parents, we recognize just how vulnerable our children are.

The harder conversations go something like this: “If you are harassed or teased and called a terrorist, tell a teacher.” When my 11-year old insists that is tattling, I explain that even if it makes him look weak, it’s wiser to tell a teacher than to navigate these waters alone. I don’t want him to get into a potential argument because there’s a chance it could escalate. Best-case scenario, my child could put up a brave front, maybe while fighting back tears. Worst-case he could push back and end up suspended.

Like the rest of the nation, I feel such regret and sadness that the Boston bombing suspects, both well-liked seemingly well-integrated young men, came to be so terribly misled. As a parent, I also recognize the agony their mother and father must have felt, watching helplessly, from thousands of miles away, as their children were hunted and gunned down.

As much as I fear I will alarm him with talk of the bombings in Boston, I take on the subject. “If there are Muslims who try to tell you it’s okay to be violent, remember what your parents have taught you. In Islam, war is between militaries alone — no civilians, women, children, schools, hospitals and other civic amenities can be targets.”

A pre-teen, my son actually listens to me and shares his thoughts and concerns. Shielding him from these difficult discussions today may mean losing an opportunity to imprint the idea that, in Islam, taking an innocent life is tantamount to killing all of humanity. Not talking about this may mean throwing away a chance to warn my child that he needs to be conscious of those who may try to lead him astray.

I talk about how terrible the bombings have been for the victims and their families. “If you, as you grow older, have issues with the policies of any nation or differences of opinion, civic involvement is the way to change the status quo, not violence,” I drill into his young mind. I reiterate that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to address issues and differences of opinions, violence not being an option.

I fear there may be a time when we aren’t there to be a sounding board for our kids. As my son takes in every word, I quietly hope I’m not scaring him.

Frustrated, my son asks, “Why do some Muslims have to go and mess it up for the rest of us?” “Because, somehow, they’ve come to believe that their actions are justified,” I respond. “But they aren’t,” I am quick to add.

But there is more on my mind that I don’t bring up. I don’t get into a tirade about how the media ties this crime to our faith or calls it a return to terrorism to US shores. What about the Sandy Hook murderer who opened fire on little children? Deemed mentally ill, no ties were drawn to an ideology for his actions. Or the white supremacist, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin? He was not considered a terrorist by the media. Why are only Muslim suspects’ and criminals’ actions automatically motivated by faith?

These thoughts aren’t far from my mind, but I don’t need to add that kind of baggage to this conversation with my eleven year old. He has enough on his plate.

*Naazish YarKhan is a writer, publicist and communications strategist in the Chicago area. This article was written for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).

  • http://www.facebook.com/susan.burns.7 Susan Burns

    What a boring article. We’re done with the excuses and attempts to lay blame elsewhere. Islam IS the problem. Your book mandates violence and the terrorist interpretation is easy to arrive at. Grow up and learn some real science and leave the myths behind

    • Toha

      I agree it was a boring article, but you definitely know nothing about ISLAM… We should sorry for you. Telling someone else to grow up? please….

      • mauriceg

        Surely learning about Islam can’t be a pre-requisite to reading articles like this. Like others, I judge Islam on its actions, not on what it claims its adherents believe. All over the world, people are coming forward to be suicide bombers. There seems to be no end to the queue. Explaining to your kids how your holy book causes people to maim and kill, should be interesting.
        Explain why some so-called holy men still proclaim that the Earth is flat, and that a tiny sun revolves around it.
        Explain why Islam is so at odds with modern science. How Islam proclaims a young Earth created by a deity. Science finds an earth 4.5 Billion years old, that life began, perhaps a few times here, and evolved.
        You are lying to your kids every day. When they know there is a dichotomy between what some so-called holy man says and science they get at school, what happens?

        When Islam defends murderers just because they are Muslims, what do kids learn from that.
        I’m sorry, but you haven’t a clue.

    • HarryJohnson

      To Toha:

      Feeling Sorry? I should say I feel sorry for people who believe in Prophets who ride flying horses……

      Observing what North Korea does to it’s citizens, I don’t need to be an expert on Stalinism to deduce Stalinism does evil things.

      Knowing how the Japanese Imperial Army treated Asians during World War Two, I don’t need to be a student of Nationalistic Militarism to see that Nationalistic Militarism commits acts of evil.

      Synonymous to those examples, looking at the deliberate targeting and murder of innocent civilians by organisations such as Al Qaeda, Islamic Defenders Front (FPI) and Jemiah Islamiah, one doesn’t need a grounding in Islamism to conclude that Islamism is evil.

      To refer to your response, we don’t need to know about ISLAM; we draw a conclusion from what we see that ISLAM does, not whatever you may claim it says.

      When your religious leaders stop supporting these organisations, and instead proclaim the same Fatwas on their leaders as the terrorist supporter Ruhollah Khomeini placed on the internationally acclaimed author Salmon Rushdie, we just might grant a little credibility to this Muslim mother. Just a little.

  • HarryJohnson

    “What about the Sandy Hook murderer who opened fire on little children?… no ties were drawn to an ideology for his actions. …white supremacist, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin? He was not considered a terrorist by the media…Why are only Muslim suspects’ and criminals’ actions automatically motivated by faith?”

    Because the two convenient examples given by the Muslim mother are isolated. She should have also pointed out that the Muslim Nidal Malik Hasan’s Fort Hood massacre was classified by US law enforcement agencies as an act of workplace violence, not terrorism.

    Acts of violence deliberately targeting innocent civilians throughout the world are overwhelmingly carried out my Islamist organisations: By individuals and groups associated with or inspired by Al Qaeda, hate driven murder of Shiite and Ahmadiyya by Sunnis, (via ludicrous claims they are “heretics”!) and dispossession and discrimination against religious minorities in Muslim countries, Indonesia being a prime example.

    But not even a whimper about these Muslim atrocities from Muslim preachers in the Mosques! They daily should be thunderous in their condemnation: We see no Fatwas against Muslim terrorists. It’s time Muslims took their preachers to task, criticised their lack of empathy and took back their religion, not listen blindly to old men preaching at them.

  • Normalaatsra

    It was not only boring, but it was very biased. Evilly biased. That is not how you condemn religious violence to your children by being empathic to the your religion being related to the crime. It’s like telling your child that their grandparent has gone to sleep when they passed away. Never lie, that is what parents always tell, and this parent was being a really bad parent.

  • TGIF

    The bible and the Koran are alike…full of misleading interpretations. The Koran is derived from the bible…in so many similar verses and story telling. There are radicals of all colors, shapes and sizes in every religion…sighs.