An urgent letter to Muslim Parents in light of incidents in Christchurch, New Zealand
As Salaam Alaikum,
I worry that Muslim youth may be at risk due to events such as Christchurch. However, we can prevent this. Allow me to explain.
The issue of belonging
The most significant finding: a majority of 5-9 year old Muslim children in the United States do not feel like they belong in their American setting. That is, many Muslim children feel like they are not accepted in their American community due to their religion.
Why does this matter?
Research indicates that there are two extreme responses that often result due to a lack of belonging: assimilation and resistance.
- Assimilation relates to an individual shedding elements of their culture in an attempt to fit in. For example, a student going by “Mo” instead of “Mohammed.”
- Resistance relates to combating the dominant culture to reaffirm their identity. For example, a student fighting somebody who makes fun of their Muslim name.
This type of behavior is most often exhibited among 13-to-19 year olds due to their physical development. Specifically, because the part of the brain which allows for reasoning is not fully matured (i.e. the pre-frontal cortex), adolescents often make decisions based on emotion and not critical thinking.
Why I am concerned today
The current generation of 13-to-19 year olds is coming of age at a time when its President has openly rejected Muslims. These youth have witnessed the Muslim Ban, the Islamophobia-inspired murders of Deah, Yusor, and Razan, and the support of White Nationalists in Charlottesville.
Frankly, because of the full-throated bigotry offered by American leadership and the climate of Islamophobia that has resulted, I worry that our youth represent a tinderbox that can be ignited by events such as Christchurch.
It is our duty, as parents, leaders, and community members that we do everything in our capability to ensure this doesn’t happen.
How do we proceed?
While rage and anger are realistic and honest emotions in the wake of such tragedy, it is critical that we foster patience among ourselves and youth related to this event.
Below are a selected strategies that parents, community members, and leaders can take as we proceed:
- Conversation & Context: While the events that occurred in Christchurch were perpetrated at the hands of White Nationalists, parents must provide context that the overwhelming majority of our neighbors (and the world) detest these actions. This can be exhibited through unanimous public outcry against the violence from many of our politicians, including, for example, Bernie Sanders and Barack Obama.
- Building and Nurturing Allies: Today, we should invite our interfaith allies to join us in worship at our masjids and for dinner in our homes. It is important for our children to see, first-hand, that while humanity may appear to be divided elsewhere, in our communities, we are tightly-knit.
- Remembrance of Tradition: The Prophetic tradition is one that celebrates patience in the face of calamity. As a family, we can retell aspects of our Prophet’s story, namely his trials in Ta’iff.
- Channeling Emotions: Anger and rage are appropriate emotions in a situation like this one. Parents can help channel these emotions into productive efforts such as community building and political activism.
The hours ahead are critical for the plight of Muslims in the West. The murders in Christchurch are a turning point. Not only because the violence represents the result of bigotry that has been perpetrated by our world’s highest offices, but also because of the vicious scale of the attack.
I pray that an event such as this one can awaken our world to remember that even if we are not brothers in faith, we are the like in humanity. We pray that Allah (SWT) grants the victims, their families, and our global community with patience.
Amin G. Aaser
Managing Director, Noor Kids