A third grade Muslim boy was hanged by his neck in Louisville, Kentucky by two fifth-graders last March. He survived after a teacher found him unconscious in the bathroom. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated case. Seven percent of Muslim students in public schools get physically abused, according to a Columbia University survey.
Islamophobia, racism, anti-immigrant movements all have the highest impact on Muslim children.
What’s been called “the Great American freakout on Sharia” is a part of an Islamophobic campaign of dehumanization of Islam and Muslims.
Sharia is not a word Muslims use on a daily basis in their lives. Actually, until the recent Sharia debate, most Muslim Americans may not have used this term more than a couple of times in their lives.
While we live Sharia on a daily basis, this word is not a part of our daily lives.
That causes a major problem in explaining it. I have observed that in many settings, even practicing Muslims have difficulty defining Sharia.
The Islamic way of life is called Sharia. This might be the most usable explanation.
Living Islam is living Sharia.
Our Wudu, methods of cleanliness, Salat, Zakat, fasting, charity, serving our communities are all part of Sharia.
Here are some ideas which will be useful in relating to your children.
1. Increase your time for the little ones to live and discuss Sharia
It is of utmost importance that you increase your time allocation for relating to your children. You can gain time by reducing internet and television time. A lot of Baraka (blessings) can come through that.
This does not have to be huge time commitment but it has to be a quality time commitment. If your family is not running on a Shura model, know that you are not practicing a Sharia lifestyle. Allah has said in the Quran that the successful Muslims run their affairs with Shura (consultation) with each other. So please engage in Shura with your loved ones.
In a 2009 Gallup survey, 26 percent of Muslim youth in the United States reported feeling angry as compared to 14 percent of Protestant youth and 18 percent of the general American population. They are angrier than their parents. This survey had 10 questions on mental health and almost all results when it came to young Muslims revealed that they were the least happy and the most angry.
Your communication will help your children be successful in this world and in the Hereafter. They are likely to share with you what they are going through and what their questions are if you spare more time for them.
2. Contribute today to develop material for Muslim children on Sharia
It is unfortunate that nothing exists for children on Sharia. You heard it right. NOTHING. Sound Vision intends to develop several short videos this summer by retaining professional producers and interns working together to have a whole set of information developed for young Muslims. Please donate today for this cause. Our innocent children and young adults are literally lost in the face of what is being called “the great American freakout on Sharia”. None of us have any intention of imposing Sharia on any one. It will be actually against Sharia to impose Sharia on anyone. Please donate today.
3. Start a family learning circle
If you do not have family discussion on serious issues, you may want to start a family circle in which a member of the family makes a presentation on a topic and the rest discuss it. One such topic could be how to live Sharia in today’s world.
4. Storytime at home
Storytime is a great way to relate to younger children. You can develop a twelve-story plan in consultation with your children. Some children might be interested in telling a story as well. You can work with them to pick a topic. You can tell a story about the Prophet’s life, may Allah’s peace and blessing be upon him. Or about the Prophet’s Companions.
Sound Vision has a collection of 64 stories on 7 CDs. Maybe you can engage in a story listening session to start off. Create a bit of drama around it. Select a storytelling room or a part of an existing room and engage children in decorating that room. A comforter on the legs as everyone is sitting in a circle and dim lights can create an environment for storytelling. Perhaps at the end there can be some stuff to munch on as storytime turns into some chatting time. Do remember to use the word Sharia when an Islamic behavior, practice, or ritual occurs in the story so that children can understand the breadth and the depth of Sharia in a subtle way.
5. Take a learning vacation
If you are planning to take some time off, make sure that a part of it is used to enhance your family’s understanding of their faith and heritage. Here is an article at Sound Vision site which talks about it.
6. Turn a party into a bit organized conversation
There are probably more Muslims Americans attending family parties on a weekly basis than attending Masjids. Muslim families and friends are spending a good amount of time in informal and formal occasions meeting each other. With all of the partying some Muslims have started using 15 minutes of so to have a formal presentation about any aspect of Islam. For a three to four-hour party, it is a tolerable time allocation even for those who do not practice their faith. For many non-practicing Muslims, this is the only occasion to learn anything about their faith. They do watch television and listen to talk shows, read the news online, etc. so use this occasion to talk about an aspect of Sharia. Keep using the term Sharia to define aspects of faith so they develop the understanding that Sharia is like practicing one’s faith.
7. Discuss objections on Islam
While Muslim Americans practice Sharia daily in their lives, Islamophobes are coming up with all sorts of new and old objections on Islam. Everyone else is talking about those objections. It is important that your family understands the truth about these objections. It will only make them stronger.
Pressure on Muslim children is tremendous: 75% of them have either personally faced discrimination or know someone who has, and 29% actually try to hide their faith by using other names.
It is important that you and your spouse remain connected within the family in a planned and quality way. Muslims and Muslim families must be on the front line of defending Islam in America, even before our institutions and official leadership.