Dr. Aneesah Nadir
What would you do if your son faced an experience like 14-year-old Ahmed Mohamed who took a clock he made at home to show his teacher and found himself handcuffed, taken to juvenile detention and accused of creating a “hoax bomb”? How do Muslim parents prepare and protect their children in a society that is becoming increasingly Islamophobic?
Help your children develop a healthy self-image. Teach them the stories and experiences of Prophet Muhammad, pbuh, and the early Muslims. They faced challenges by the Islamophobes of their day but they also had the protection of Allah and the social support networks of their fellow Muslims. They were confident and recognized that Allah does not place a burden on us greater than we can bear.
Get involved in your children’s school. Make sure the school knows you and your family. Participate in opportunities to share your culture and faith and learn about their traditions.
As my children grew up I was active in their school. I used show and tell, diversity events and story time to share my children’s beliefs with their classmates. I took hijabs, kufis and thobes to play dress-up so the children came to see Muslims as normal rather than strange and foreign. I read stories about Ramadan and wore my hijab to their school. The teachers got to know me. The children saw Muslim traditions as different but not bad.
It is essential that our schools and neighbors get to know us as good examples of Islam, peaceful and law abiding. The more people know our children’s traditions, the less likely they are going to be portrayed as “the other,” stereotyped or prejudged.
Teach your children a balanced view of being Muslim in America and survival skills. Let them know that there are many kind people who are good neighbors like the ones who stood up for Muslims at the masjid in Phoenix recently and formed a human wall of love around the mosque.
Also let them know that there are some people who don’t understand Muslims and even hate Muslims based on stereotypes and generalizations.
My youngest son has had very good experiences with his supervisors accommodating his request for Jummah. He also remembers the time we were harassed in the supermarket when he was only five years old. He has a balanced view of the challenges and the positives in post 9/11 America. He also realizes that some circumstances are not safe. He has to be aware of the reality of driving or flying while Muslim or praying in an airport.
Arm your children with access to quality legal services and attorneys. Like every other citizen, children have the right to due process under the law and the right to legal counsel. Children are generally afforded the basic rights embodied by the Constitution. Muslim children need to know what their constitutional rights are and have a means to access those rights. Retain an attorney for just in case your child has a circumstance like Ahmed faced, or consider a legal plan that covers your entire family for a low monthly fee. Choose a plan that provides unlimited consultation and 24 hour a day, 7 day a week emergency access in case they are arrested or detained, searched or questioned.
Make dua and teach them to make dua that Allah (swt) protects them wherever they are.