So your kids have come home and begged you to go trick-or-treating on Halloween night (October 31). They can't wait for all of the bubble gum, lollipops and jawbreakers, not to mention dressing up in a Pokemon or witch costume like the rest of their friends.
You watch all of this in dismay. Knowing that Halloween is about Shirk you want to put your foot down once and for all and not let the kids go out that evening.
Ekram Beshir is a mother of four and co-author of the book Meeting the Challenge of Parenting in the West: An Islamic Perspective.
Munir El-Kassem has served as Imam in London, Ontario in Canada and is a father of five.
Shaema Imam is a graduate of McGill University and Muslim youth activist who grew up in a suburb of Montreal, Canada.
These are their tips about how you can deal with the Halloween hoopla:
1. Find out exactly what Halloween is
Too often, parents themselves are in the dark about the background of occasions and holidays like Halloween. Don't think this is a trivial matter.
Once you find out why Halloween is celebrated, you will think twice about getting your kids involved.
In fact, any parent who is trying to raise his or her child as a God-conscious individual will object to the celebration of the occasion. Just spend an hour at the library looking it up in the encyclopedia. To get an Islamic perspective, check out a review of Holiday Myths.
If you discuss it with your kids using correct information, and they sense that you know what you are talking about, they may even agree with you about not participating in the ritual.
2. Talk to them at least a few weeks in advance
This is made easier by the fact that Halloween sales of candy and costumes are already underway and the yearly ritual of horror movies being released or shown on television (see our unTV guide) will soon begin.
So the atmosphere is right to sit Aisha or Ali down to have a talk about Halloween. Talking to them now as opposed to on the morning of October 31 will give them some time to think about it too, and get used to the concept of not having to go trick-or-treating just because their friends are.
3. Rationally explain that we have our own celebrations
Talking about Halloween in the context of a fiery speech against the holiday will not help Aisha or Ali see why they should not participate.
Your histrionics will only blind them to reality. Instead, explain that every group or culture has its own celebrations, and we, as Muslims have our own. Halloween is a pagan celebration. But when Eid comes, that is our celebration.
Do not condemn those who celebrate Halloween. Rather, explain what it is calmly, point out its dangers, and let your kids think about it.
4. Mention the other dangers of Halloween
Horror stories about razor blades in apples, Ex-Lax laxative given instead of chocolate to trick-or-treaters, or the dangers on the street should also be mentioned, but not made the focus of the reasons why you object to Halloween.
5. Explain that every one of our occasions has a meaning
Remind your kids that for Muslims, our holidays always have a good, positive meaning.
For example, at Eid-ul-Fitr, we celebrate our joy of fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan, which is a time we strive to get closer to God and be better Muslims.
Halloween, on the other hand, is celebrated partly as a reminder of satan, who is evil, and from whom everyone should avoid and seek refuge in God from.
6. Emphasize that there is nothing wrong with being different
This is crucial because there will be other occasions later on in their lives when Muslim children must not participate in school activities (for example, the Prom.
This does not mean permanent exclusion from all school and/or peer activities, but it means that as Muslims, they can take what is good, but they also have to learn to reject what is bad in a wise manner.
7. Meet your child's teacher to discuss it
Arrange a meeting to discuss Halloween and celebrations or activities you, as a Muslim would not want your child to be involved in. But also talk about what kinds of activities you would recommend or approve of, and discuss Muslim celebrations.
Volunteer to come in during Ramadan, for example, to present and bring food for the kids during a talk about what is the month's significance for Muslims. For more tips see 17 Tips for Parents to Present Ramadan in your Child's Class
8. Don't send them to school the day of Halloween if there's a party
If the teacher has scheduled a class Halloween party, simply don't send Ali or Aisha to school that day.
However, before you do this, you should write a short letter or note to the teacher and/or principal explaining why your son or daughter will not be attending school that day.
9. Take them to a Muslim friend's house on Halloween
Don't make this a special occasion. If you regularly meet with other Muslim families and your children are friends with their children, visit them or invite them over just to play or hang out. This can take their minds off the Halloween hysteria happening outside.
10. Take them out for a doughnut
Or anything else Halal, just so you are not home when trick-or-treaters come knocking, which will reinforce the Halloween hysteria.
11. Turn off the lights, close the windows and educate your neighbors
Turning off the lights will give the message this home isn't really interested in Halloween. Closing the windows may be necessary, since throwing eggs at someone's home who hasn't given candy is not uncommon on Halloween.
Educate your neighbors about Halloween by posting a brief polite note about why you are not celebrating the occasion. Shaema Imam for example, on one Halloween, posted a decorative note on her door telling neighbors she does not support the pseudo-satanic glorification of evil as represented by Halloween. However, she said it is excellent that there is neighborhood cooperation to promote children's safety on Halloween (there were efforts in her area to ensure kids could trick-or-treat in safety).
She also expressed her support for the collection of money for Unicef, which children sometimes do when they go trick-or-treating. Imam didn't get any comments, but no one egged her house either, she says.
12. Spread the word: two to three weeks in advance, organize a seminar
This would be for Muslim moms, dads and their young kids. There should be a presentation on what exactly Halloween is and what Muslim parents can do about it. There are Christians who also feel similar way about Halloween, you can organize this event together.
While this is being discussed, kids should be allowed to play together under the supervision of a couple of baby-sitters. This will serve to inform moms and dads, while giving kids a chance to have fun (and perhaps set up an invitation so they can avoid Halloween night craziness-see Tip #9).
13. Keep your promise about Eid
For a number of Muslim youth who have grown up in North America, Eid is sometimes just another day, with parents not even taking a day off work.
In other cases, while parents may take the day off, the ritual is the same: get up, put on new clothes, drive to fancy hall, pray, not understand what's really going on, hug Eid Mubarak, go back home, eat "ethnic" food, get money (as Eid gift). Period. It's no wonder our kids' eyes light up when they see Christmas lights, brightly wrapped gifts and hear of Halloween fun and treats.
Make Eid special. Don't just hype it up during Halloween to convince the kids not to participate and then break your promise.
On Eid, give the kids candy, take them out to dinner or an amusement park. Organize a party and invite their friends over. Arrange for them to have a gift exchange. The possibilities for Halal fun are there. We owe it to our kids, if we want them to stay Muslim and to be proud of it, to celebrate the occasions in life that really matter to us, like the two Eids.