R'11 Day Nineteen: The Others

Dr. Phil said it best when he remarked a few years back "You teach people how to treat you".

And OH BOY, have Muslims ever mastered this little number, to a point in which we've become stereotyped and labeled as loud, inconsiderate, ignorant, and just...foreign.

Slow clap to my Muslim brethren! In case you're wondering what the heck I'm talking about, allow me to explain!

Slow Clap and Cringe Worthy #1: Mosque Mayhem

As I've mentioned in other blog entries, Muslims pray a set of night prayers called 'Taraweeh', which take place at all the mosques around the city. The prayers start around 10:45pm, and the first set are done in under 30 minutes, while the extended version can go until close to midnight. The mosques around the city are conveniently located within very non-Muslim neighbourhoods. Since there are more mosque attendees than usual during Ramadan, parking overflow occurs outside of designated parking lots, and most often in front of peoples' homes (especially at the SW Mosque). Since it's late at night, this really doesn't cause too much of an issue.

What DOES though is the screaming mayhem young children cause when they run out of the mosque shrieking and shouting and playing AT MIDNIGHT, while parents walk slowly behind, with brothers talking to brothers and sisters talking to sisters. The non-Muslim neighbours then wake up, see a bunch of Muslim kids causing terror and ruckus, and they see of course their parents doing NOTHING to control them...and there we have it. A stereotype is formed about how MISBEHAVED Muslim children are and how lazy their parents are.

How hard is it for parents to teach their children that it is not acceptable to run amuck at midnight and that they need to respect the fact that there are neighbours around who don't actually observe Ramadan?! Children need to be taught "adab" (Arabic word for manners), and this certainly isn't gong to happen through OSMOSIS, parents needs to be intentional, consistent, and send a clear message. And for the love of Allah, WHY are parents buying their kids Slurpees and Squishes and all drinks sugar-laden at 11pm at night?! No wonder you have mayhem, insulin levels are running rampant and nothing short of rope and duct tape will hold these kids down.

In short: Children need to be taught how to be respectful and mindful of those around them, regardless of the situation. Parents teaching the simple trait of empathy goes a long way.

Slow Clap and Cringe Worthy #2: The Muslim Quarantine

There's a phenomenon among some Muslim families (more than there should be actually) to want to keep their children away from non-Muslims. Because God forbid, the angelic Muslim child pick up bad habits from their non-Muslim counterparts. Astakfirillah! Some parents actually prefer to only let their child interact with Muslim children, only go to an Islamic school, only participate in mosque affiliated and Muslim branded extra curricular activities, and etc etc etc. Does anyone not see what's wrong with this trend?

So, here's the rub. The more parents try to isolate and shelter their children with the force field of Muslim-only interactions and activities, the more this will backfire in the future. Children will grow into pre-teens and into teenagers, and when they do, watch out. Because one of two scenarios could happen: (a) your teen is socially isolated, awkward around non-Muslims, and can't navigate the social milieu around him/her; or (b) your teen starts to question EVERYTHING around him/her, and resents you for isolating them from greater society, so they start to rebel and do what they know you don't want them to do. Either scenario is dangerous.

Parents need to be raising well-integrated, adjusted, and balanced children. After all, we live in the West, and as much as we want to create our own little corner of Pakistan, Lebanon, or any other Muslim country, it just doesn't work. Children need to be raised to understand that while it's good to be a strong Muslim, this strength needs to be channeled into interacting, working, and living among people from all walks of life. Parents needs to use stories and examples from Prophet Muhammad's (Peace Be Upon Him) time to demonstrate how the Messenger treated any and all people the same way, regardless of what faith or culture they came from.

Slow Clap and Cringe Worthy #3: It's Sunnah to Smile

I mentioned this in a previous entry entitled "Sister Acts", where I described MANY Muslim women not showing non-Muslims even a basic level of politeness during interactions. And I mean, avoiding eye contact, no smile, a stern face, and very "to the point" answers. Now, if I were a non-Muslim interacting with a hijabi female or Muslim male in this way, how do you think I'd react? And then the next Muslim that comes along does the same thing!

I SWEAR, when non-Muslims hear me talk at ease with them and strike up a conversation, they really look shocked. And I do this intentionally everywhere I go, from grocery stores to mall stores to coffee shops to airplanes and airports to cities I'm traveling in, etc. It's like people are shocked I even talk to non-Muslims, and that I'm actually relatable with regardless of my outward appearance. Which goes to show you how often they come across other Muslims who take the effort to show others how we really are no different from people overall.

To hammer this point home, SISTERS, for goodness sake, take off the grumpies and put them away! I'm saddened by how many Muslim girls and women I see who look just plain angry in public. Combined with a power walk, the message they send is not a pretty one.

Fast-Clap Solutions

OK, enough complaining, now here's how to turn things around people. ALLAHUAKBAR!

1. Parents: Take control of your children and TEACH THEM basic rules of respect for all people in all situations. Also...stop buying slurpees and squishes for them at 11:30pm!!

2. Parents: Well-adjusted children do not sprout from the ground overnight, and they don't learn this passively. It takes practice and positive reinforcement. Start early, keep consistent, and be a role model.

3. All sisters and brothers: Take that frown and turn it upside down!!! Act upon your responsibility of Dawah and start by striking up conversations with non-Muslims when the situation presents itself. And I don't mean talking ONLY about Islam and all things Muslim related! Try to relate to society as a whole, and give "small talk" a chance. A little goes a long way.

Muslims have done enough to brand ourselves with the label of "The Others". It's time to show society overall just how relatable Islam is and that Muslims overall are not a UPO...Unidentifiable-with Praying Object!!!


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