Dilshad D. Ali is the managing editor of Patheos Muslim and in this op-ed for The Atlantic, she recounts about growing up as a young Muslim girl in Grand Forks, North Dakota during the ’80s and 90s, and talks about the “different eras” for Muslim kids growing up in recent decades. She also offers excellent parenting advise for raising confident American Muslim children. Here’s a clip from her excellent piece —
“I often think about all my parents went through, the compromises they made while holding fast to their faith, traditions, and values to raise us as practicing Muslims and proud, assimilated Americans. Little-league baseball games, piano lessons on Friday afternoons, band practice, marching in the annual Potato Bowl parade, trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, and also: praying together as a family, reading the Koran in the morning before leaving for school, teaching us about our faith, all without the benefits of Islamic Sunday School, a local mosque to go to, or hardly any books or curricula to follow.
Nearly 30 years later, with three children of my own—two in high school and one in elementary school—it’s amazing to compare what my parents strove to do back in the 1980s and 1990s as immigrants who became naturalized citizens with how I am raising my children now.
Generally, there have been three different eras for Muslim kids growing up in America in recent decades. When first-generation or immigrant Muslims were growing up in the 1980s and ’90s, the focus was on assimilating as much as possible while trying privately to hold onto culture and faith. Then, in the years immediately following 9/11, kids who were coming of age received a different kind of messaging, a particular mix of pressures: to condemn terrorism, express their patriotism, and sometimes downplay their Muslimness. Today, for my kids, with 9/11 more than 15 years in the past, they are facing something wholly new: an era when it’s encouraged to be unapologetically Muslim while at the same time staking claim to their Americanness…
‘Be unapologetically Muslim’ was not something I heard at all growing up. The message was to be quietly, not loudly, Muslim. But it’s different today. I am teaching my children to be unapologetically Muslim and American. That they have as much right to be who they are outwardly and inwardly as anyone else in this country. That they are responsible for themselves and to be good citizens and human beings of this country and this earth. That they do not need to be apologetic for whatever evils and transgressions others may commit in their cruel twisting of the Muslim faith.”
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