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Islam & Terror: ‘Conversations With My Young, Muslim Son’

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Like all parents, Muslim parents have their fair share of do’s and don’ts for their children. Unlike most parents though, terrorism and how to handle its misguided association with Islam figures in some of our talks.

In the wake of the Boston bombings and given that one of the suspects was only a few years older than my own boy, the need for us to talk with Yousuf took on even greater urgency. Conversations usually begin with “most Americans recognise that not all Muslims are violent just because a few are,” and progress to “but I still don’t want you to talk about bombs, guns or shooting, even if it’s a game you’re discussing”.

These are tough conversations to have with an 11-year old, but they’re discussions we cannot avoid. As Muslim parents, we recognise just how vulnerable our children are.

The harder conversations go something like this: “If you are harassed or teased and called a terrorist, tell a teacher.” When my 11-year old insists that is tattling, I explain that even if it makes him look weak, it’s wiser to tell a teacher than to navigate these waters alone. I don’t want him to get into a potential argument because there’s a chance it could escalate. Best-case scenario, my child could put up a brave front, maybe while fighting back tears. Worst-case he could push back and end up suspended.

Like the rest of the nation, I feel such regret and sadness that the Boston bombing suspects, both well-liked seemingly well-integrated young men, came to be so terribly misled. As a parent, I also recognise the agony their mother and father must have felt, watching helplessly, from thousands of miles away, as their children were hunted and gunned down.

As much as I fear I will alarm him with talk of the bombings in Boston, I take on the subject. “If there are Muslims who try to tell you it’s okay to be violent, remember what your parents have taught you. In Islam, war is between militaries alone – no civilians, women, children, schools, hospitals and other civic amenities can be targets.”

A pre-teen, my son actually listens to me and shares his thoughts and concerns. Shielding him from these difficult discussions today may mean losing an opportunity to imprint the idea that, in Islam, taking an innocent life is tantamount to killing all of humanity. Not talking about this may mean throwing away a chance to warn my child that he needs to be conscious of those who may try to lead him astray.

I talk about how terrible the bombings have been for the victims and their families. “If you, as you grow older, have issues with the policies of any nation or differences of opinion, civic involvement is the way to change the status quo, not violence,” I drill into his young mind. I reiterate that there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to address issues and differences of opinions, violence not being an option.

I fear there may be a time when we aren’t there to be a sounding board for our kids. As my son takes in every word, I quietly hope I’m not scaring him.

Frustrated, my son asks, “Why do some Muslims have to go and mess it up for the rest of us?” “Because, somehow, they’ve come to believe that their actions are justified,” I respond. “But they aren’t,” I am quick to add.

But there is more on my mind that I don’t bring up. I don’t get into a tirade about how the media ties this crime to our faith or calls it a return to terrorism to US shores. What about the Sandy Hook murderer who opened fire on little children? Deemed mentally ill, no ties were drawn to an ideology for his actions. Or the white supremacist, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin? He was not considered a terrorist by the media. Why are only Muslim suspects’ and criminals’ actions automatically motivated by faith?

These thoughts aren’t far from my mind, but I don’t need to add that kind of baggage to this conversation with my 11-year old. He has enough on his plate.

 Naazish YarKhan is a writer, publicist and communications strategist in the Chicago area.

One Response to Islam & Terror: ‘Conversations With My Young, Muslim Son’

  1. bigstick1 18/05/2013 at 4:43 PM

    I think people tied it to your religion because the bombers claim to have done the act for Islam and Muslims. Just like the fort hood incident, Portland Christmas bombing , 911, innocents of Muslims incidents, Iman/clerics teaching violence and backwardness, 711, Australia’s iman comparing women to uncovered meat so okay to rape , the list just keeps going like the energizer Bunny.

    Of course the text of the religion doesnt help you either; as it very easily shows that all this is justified as religion was created for political purposes to keep men fighting and destroying their lives, over a deity of nothing and women are chattel whose purpose is to be a uterus to produce as many children as possible to further the political quest for domination for the few in power. This is why in many religions polygamy is acceptable. You breed the women and send excess men out to fight as they are deem expendable. Religion reduces humanity to nothing but fodder to a theological imaginary two dimensional ink god and the political laughing stock by the political/clerical elite.

    Oh and pointing fingers at other incidents doesn’t help you as they as just are misguided by their hate text. The difference is that the adherence of their hateful imaginary fiend for the most part consider text to be written as a parable/ allegory who don’t currently have 57 governments/countries embracing ideology political stances that encourage discrimination, racism gender apartheid, homo phobia, apostasy killings, belief in witchcraft, blasphemy laws, dark age mentality, sexually obsessed but with a fear of it that you have to cover the meat and the list of psychotic issues continue.

    The psychological damage that religious indoctrination has done and is currently doing to children will take a long time to heal and recover from.

    What do you expect from many adults who grew up believing in a hateful vengeful jealous ink deity who sanctions murder, gender discrimination, racism, societal dividing us against them, sexually obsessed but fearful of it yet loathing of self due to obsession who threatens eternal damnation to be anyway? A balanced, level headed, rational, critical thinking individual? I don’t think so.

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