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Children Identity Challenges US Muslims

Published: 25/09/2012 12:18:22 PM GMT
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TRIPOLI - In an escalation in protests against a US-made film defaming Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him), the US ambassador to Libya and three other embassy staff were killed in a rocket attack on their car.

CAIRO - Raising up their children in the United States, Muslim parents are facing challenges of having their kids maintain their righteous Muslim identity without preventing them from interacting with their non-Muslim peers.

“We were a little apprehensive about what life would be like in America,” Farhat Husain told The Washington Post.

“But it worked out. People were pretty respectful, and those things we did helped the children keep an awareness of their values and religion.”Responsibility for Raising Children in the West

Husain had left Pakistan in 1964 for Britain, where her husband received his Ph.D. at Oxford.

Completing the studies, the Muslim family then moved to New Haven, Conn., in 1969, before relocating in the Boston area in 1971.

Living in a Western society, the Muslim parents had worries about raising their children, a daughter and a son.

After some thoughts, Husain decided to get involved into the society, participating in international clubs at the universities where her husband worked.

She also got involved in cooking for potlucks, manning information booths and presenting Islam at churches, community centers, and her children's schools.

Her daughter, Saadia, has also used the same approach.

Following her mother's footsteps, Saadia talked about Islam at her kids' schools, and has read “Ramadan,” a children's book by Muslim-American author Suhaib Ghazi, to their classes.

“That made it (Ramadan) feel like it was something special,” Saadia's daughter, Sidrah, 19, now a student at Wellesley College.

Saadia was also keen on involving her 13-year-old daughter Mona in American sleepover combined with the early morning breakfast during Ramadan.

“The girls love it,” she said.

“They get to stay up late, they watched the Olympics, they talk. We fix them breakfast and then they go to sleep.

“When they wake up, they're happy,” she added.

Rejecting her daughter sleep over at other homes, she was eager to invite her daughter's friends.

“When we can't let our kids do whatever they want, we have to create our own opportunities,” the Muslim mother said.


Fearing Western social problems, including dating, alcohol and attire, some Muslims resort to limiting their children's contacts with non-Muslims.

“Many of them just keep their children inside, only within the community,” said Ayfer Abed Aljabar, who founded the Iraqi American Community Center last year in Lowell, Mass.

Dr. Othman Mohammad, a volunteer youth coordinator at the Islamic Center of New England in Quincy, Mass, agrees.

“When Muslim kids look at American kids, they often feel like they are being deprived.”

But, such curbs were discouraged by experts as carrying the fear of duplicity and secrecy, added Mohammad.

Other experts warned that many Muslim immigrant parents also isolate themselves within the local community, often because they feel intimidated by the new environment.

“When we don't mingle with others, we don't hear what goes on in school from other kids' parents,” Suzy Ismail, curriculum developer at the Center for Muslim Life in New Brunswick, N.J., said.

“And because we're still often seen as the other, people hesitate to include us in these talks.”

Fleeing Iraq in 2007 with her husband and three young daughters, now 10, 8, and 5, Aljabar encourages her daughters to get involved with school activities and get together with friends.

“The other day they went to a pool party and had so much fun,” Aljabar said.

“If I don't feel like I can give them their freedom, why am I living here? That's part of this society.

“You're not going to stop them. But parents have to teach them, and prepare them.”

Though there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to nearly six to eight million Muslims.

Reproduced with permission from