Amanda Of MarocMama On Raising Muslim Kids
This week is our 4th and final installment in the #MormonMuslimMoms series!
Amanda and I are speaking on a human level about being a MOM in our respective faiths. As moms I think I can safely say we are very protective of our children and we mean to have an open and positive conversation about raising children within our belief system, but obviously there are limits. And our children’s safety and privacy comes first.
Her post is beautiful, I think you’ll agree:
This is the fourth part, of our four part #MormonMuslimMoms project. It would be safe to say that last week both Carissa and I had our fair share of excitement, both good and bad. This week we’re diving into the topic of raising kids in our respective faiths. As with previous weeks, and especially this week, we’d ask that you read with an open mind. We welcome questions and request that you be kind and respectful with your comments and questions. Remember this is our kids we’re talking about!
What does it mean to be a Muslim kid?
So I thought I would ask my kids a few questions before I started sharing my experience as a mom because they’re the ones I’m talking about here! My youngest might just be too young to know that there’s a big difference between people and religions. He knows we’re Muslim and grandma and grandpa are Christian but doesn’t really know what the details of that are. My oldest son is 9, almost 10 and honestly I was a little surprised by his answer. I asked, “M, if you were going to tell someone what it’s like to be a Muslim kid, what would you say?”
His answer? “It’s really the same thing as Christians, it’s nothing really different. We can’t eat pork. It doesn’t mean anything is really different about us than anybody else. We’re not different we’re just kids!”
What surprised me was his acknowledgement of difference, or lack thereof. So this led to a follow-up question by me.
What is it like to be a Muslim kid in the US vs Morocco?
“It’s harder in America than in Morocco. In America there’s lots of Christians and not that many Muslims. In Morocco it’s the opposite.” – M
“In Morocco we don’t have to worry about what we’re eating, because none of it has pork.” – K (the little guy). It’s worth noting the little man had lots of “oops” moments at lunchtime last year.
I was again surprised by M’s comment and asked him what he meant by it. He didn’t really elaborate. He did say it’s nothing bad, it’s just different. As you can see when you’re a kid food differences are (apparently) a big deal!
Where Does That Leave Mom?
I became a Muslim in post-9/11 America. I think if you asked any Muslim who became a parent in the US at this point in history they would admit to having worries about their children. I knew that we all faced an uphill battle and I was worried about where it would leave my kids. I had experienced rejection, harassment, discrimination, and bitterness because of my faith, why would I want to subject my kids to the same thing? Honestly, before converting this was a big part of my thought process. Could I really put my kids through that?
But, I had also witnessed good.
I knew that for every bad person, and bad experience I went through there were good people and experiences to counter them. I knew that my kids, no matter what religion they grew up, would face injustice, close-mindedness, and bitterness in their lives. It’s part of living. And, it made me determined to raise them as exactly opposite what I feared they would experience.
Cross Cultural Parenting
I am very blessed to have married someone who has (mostly) the same beliefs as I do. We were born on two different continents, and raised in two different ways but have by and large come to a similar belief in how we will raise our children. From day one I have respected his religious and cultural beliefs, and he has done the same for me. We both agreed how important it was that our children know and understand both – they are products of two cultures that are joined by one religion. I know many people who say that in order to be a “good Muslim” we need to give up our culture, this is particularly said to American converts, but marrying a Moroccan and becoming Muslim showed me even more how important my cultural traditions are. In this series I’ve talked a lot about the intersections of religion and culture. It happens in every country no matter the faith structure. As a parent, I’m determined my kids will know both.
I have faced a lot of questions, and anticipate I will after sharing this post too, about choosing to allow my children to experience and learn about other faiths and traditions. I believe that if we are secure in our faith then there should be no fear in allowing our children to know and understand others. The greatest injustices in the world have happened because of fear and ignorance and I refuse to contribute to that cycle. There are many Muslims in the world who bemoan those who don’t understand Islam, and yet they don’t take the time to educate themselves about other people and their beliefs. We live in a very global world, not learning and sharing with others is counter-productive.
With the biggest American holiday around the corner I’d be remiss not to touch on this. Yes, we do teach and celebrate any number of holidays with our children, including Christmas…and Hanukkah…and Thanksgiving…and Eid…and well you get the point right? My kids know and understand that there are different people of different faiths, and that they have family members who happen to be a part of the faiths who celebrate those holidays.
I can remember having a long drawn out conversation over several days with a very dear friend of mine who was raised Muslim. We had put up our Christmas tree and she took issue, believing we were wrong in doing so. Here’s the thing, this is a holiday that is mine, as an American, as a part of my culture that I grew up with that my family still partakes in and when I converted that part of identity didn’t disappear. Christmas trees, holiday lights, Santa, all of these aspects are secular, and I’ll be the first to admit this is not the meaning of Christmas, but they are reminders of this time of year. I also think it’s a great time to discuss the Islamic story of Jesus with my kids. I find it really interesting that in the US Muslim community there’s so much wrapped up in the debate over Christmas (or any holidays really) when what I found here in Morocco, a Muslim country was giant Christmas trees, Santa, and greetings in stores! It’s so not a big deal that I was floored. (Here’s another story of a Muslim mom raised in Pakistan talking about Christmas there)
It is of course important to celebrate the holidays that are a part of our faith, Eid al Adha, Eid al Fitr, Ramadan, Ashura, etc. I have always tried to make these holidays special for my kids. I try very hard not to let any one holiday over shadow another. My family takes time to celebrate Muslim holidays with us, because they love us. Do I think this means they’ve become Muslim? Of course not! So why would it be the other way? My husband and I both truly believe it is important for my kids to get a complete picture of who they are and where their roots are.
The Tough Stuff
No matter what we do, I know that my kids will likely face the “oh you’re Muslim so that must mean xyz” question. I know that they will face discrimination because of their faith. I know that they will likely be buillied at some point. I know that people will choose not to associate with them out of fear. I hate that. No parent wants that for their child.
The bottom line is, I can’t change the world but I can raise two boys, who grow up to be men proud of their faith and identity, secure in who they are as human beings on Earth. Men who respect and understand all people no matter where they were born, the languages they speak, or the holidays they celebrate. I will raise them to be the kind of Muslim men that will show the world love, peace, and compassion. The men who hold open doors and smile at babies. Who greet everyone they meet with a hello smile. Who strive to do good in this world and create a different reality for the people they meet. That’s what I can do, and that’s the legacy I will raise my boys to uphold.
- READ ALL OF Amanda’s Muslim Mom posts on Carissa’s GoodNCrazy.com Blog
- READ ALL OF Carissa’s Mormon Mom posts on Amanda’s MorocMama.com Blog
Find me: GoodNCrazy Facebook and @CarissaRogers Twitter