Dr. Aneesah Nadir –
We are on the Road to Rio! It’s the Summer Olympics in Brazil! Amazingly the Olympics is not only a celebration of champions, it is a celebration of our global diversity and shared values! Allah created us in nations and tribes so that we can get to know one another. We should not have a silo mentality in society. We are part of it.
As our young people resume school and go off to college, remind them that they are part of the worldwide community and the American mosaic. Remind them that their presence in their school does make a difference. Their presence gives their classmates an opportunity to get to know them and their Muslim family. Many of their classmates would not know a real Muslim if they did not have a chance to have your young person as their classmate. When Muslims are in class with young people of other faiths, this provides an opportunity for multicultural exchange and to share our Islamic values, traditions and manners.
As students it is their responsibility to be the best that they can be, to demonstrate excellence while also demonstrating humility and gratefulness. Even when classmates and teachers highlight anti-Muslim sentiment, remind your students to argue a beautiful argument, discussing politely. They should also remember that the angels will respond for them if this is not the time for them to respond. They may offer to introduce their teacher to a respected community leader who may be willing to be a class guest speaker. The Islamic Speakers Bureau is well-known for providing guest speakers for classrooms.
It is also important for parents to be involved in the school to let teachers know that you are supportive of your children and their education. From preschool through high school I was involved by reading during story time, sharing about family holidays, serving as a guest speaker and supporting the establishment of MSA (Muslim Student Association) on campus. I always felt it was important for my children’s classmates to see the good in our diversity.
Build a healthy self-image by strengthening protective factors surrounding your young people. Teachers and coaches who value diversity and inclusiveness make a huge difference and are a protective factor in young people’s lives. Healthy family relationships, healthy social networks and involvement in the mosque community protect young people from identity crisis, behavioral health issues and the risk of extremism. Parents, you also want to encourage your young person often, and let them know you recognize that it is challenging to be young and Muslim today. Remind them of their young role models during the time of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. The challenges their young counterparts faced in the early days of Islam were very difficult but they relied on Allah and were able to triumph over the Islamophobia of their day.
Involvement in weekend Islamic school, youth group, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts as well as MSA provides valuable leadership skills and social support for our youth. Formal support groups and informal networks like family friends also help parents through these challenging times of raising champions and future leaders! Wishing you and your people a great school year!