Salaam my lovely readers. I hope you are well inshallah. I was recently asked by a fellow Muslim parent to discuss a pretty serious topic: Muslim children and bullying. In particular, what does a loving Muslim parent do when kids at school ask/tell their child if he/she is a terrorist?
We all view bullying as a rite of passage to adulthood. Teen movies always depict the popular kids picking on everyone else and reigning supreme in places like high school or even junior high. However, bullying is going even further than before because bullies have high tech tools like smartphones and laptops. It can make even seemingly harmless labels linger a lot longer than they should. How can a child teased about one incident move on if that one incident is forever memorialized on Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr?
Another scary dimension for Muslim parents is the added burden of being labeled as “other” in America even if you are born here. Before, it was harmless surprise in the face of fellow Americans to see a hijabi speak in accentless English. Now, we have to face the fact that people may look at you as a scary person, or there may be bigots who hurl insults at you or your children. We have to teach our kids to value themselves first so that no matter what other people say or think, they will have a strong foundation of self esteem and worth to elevate themselves beyond that.
How do we instill this in our kids?
- Make Sure Your Kids Know They Matter To You: I want my baby girl to always know she is first in my heart besides God. I want her to feel safe to tell me about her day and her choices (even if right now its picking cereal over rice). She knows she matters because when she calls or reaches out for me, I am responsive. Be there for your kids so that they never feel alone.
- Let Your Kids Know They Are Not Alone: When I share stories of my early teen hijabi days and what bullies said to me as a teenager to other teens, they look surprised because it is similar to the stuff they get too. Times may change, but people don’t. Share these stories with your kids so they know it happens to all of us, even their parents. Also, tell them God is always watching and listening to them. When they feel despair, HE is always there.
- Encourage Civic Responsibility: One of the best ways to combat bullies is for your kids to get involved with helping their community. It helps them feel valued, loved, and gives them a sense of belonging. All of these things are the very things that bullies want to strip away from our kids. Another added benefit is that it actually helps deepen bonds in our community and is part of the Sunnah (life of the Prophet Muhammed (saws).