Friday, March 26, 2010

Fathers, Who Needs 'em?

Our national and international envoy, Mr.Chowdhury, has been meeting with people across America and the UK about The number one question he's been asked is, "Why MuslimFathers, why not just MuslimParents?" I've tried to address this question in our semi-official call to arms, but let's tackle it in more depth right here. Why are Fathers necessary? What are the problems with having a campaign/website/blog/social group dedicated to Muslim Parents without explicitly focusing on Fathers?

My 2 cents: Father figures have a place in the human psyche that cannot be replaced by any other entity. The same, of course, goes for maternal figures. As the cliche goes, Fathers are role models for children, especially boys. While growing up and attempting to navigate through the massive overload of information and social pressures, a boy with a positive Father Figure will choose to latch onto Him and follow His lead. Without that positive Father Figure, boys are much more vulnerable to negative social influences. The National Child Development Study, conducted in the UK, has been tracking the development of 17000 children, all born in 1958. This quick overview lists a staggering set of positive outcomes for positive fatherly involvement. There are significant correlations for criminal activity, educational achievement, not being homeless, and mental health.

Another study, conducted by Swedish researchers and featured in a prominent pediatric journal, concludes that fatherly involvement has a key role to play in reducing behaviour problems in boys and psychological problems in young women. An excerpt:

"... children who had positively involved father figures were less likely to smoke and get into trouble with the police, achieved better levels of education and developed good friendships with children of both sexes."

"Long-term benefits included women who had better relationships with partners and a greater sense of mental and physical well-being at the age of 33 if they had a good relationship with their father at 16."

The problem with a website or campaign dedicated to Muslim Parents in general is that it allows the very specific problem of absentee fathers to be ignored. Go to any website, Muslim or otherwise, dedicated to the topic of parenting or children, and I can guarantee you that the majority of participants will be women. As the cited studies and our own reason and instincts indicate, you can't conceive a child without a father and you can't complete a child without a positive father figure.

Let us know your thoughts.

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Horrible Truth

Assalam alaikum,

In modern times we have to come to grips with uncomfortable, even horrible truths. Amongst those current day realities that we cannot afford to ignore is the presence, and some might even say prevalence, of child molestation within the Muslim community. Story after story after story has come to me of people, that when they began to look in to the dark corners of their family and extended family, have found evidence of this horrible deed. These stories have come from all walks of life, from all cultures and races and economic classes. It is an American phenomenon and a "back home" phenomenon. If somehow you are skeptical about the prevalence of this problem, I can only say that I wish you were right, but too many people, religious and otherwise, have shared their stories with me that I no longer have the luxury of pretending this problem doesn't exist.

While I know of no statistics regarding this issue in the Muslim community, researchers say that "considerable evidence exists to show that at least 20% of American woman and 5% to 10% of American men have experienced some form of sexual abuse as a child" (D. Finkelhor, PhD, UNH). I do not believe that the frequency of occurrence in Muslim communities lags far behind. Dr. Ilyas Ba-Yunus, a sociology professor at State University of New York, states the overall divorce rate among Muslims in North America is 31% whereas the overall divorce rate in the US is 49%. We are not immune to trends that affect mainstream US culture. Two articles recently published on the web make it clear that this disease occurs in "Muslim" countries as well:

We at MuslimFathers are attempting to develop an initiative to tackle this issue and engage local community leaders in helping Muslim familes to protect themselves. Stay tuned for further updates and please contact us if you have suggestions or want to get involved.

The Art of Building Believers, pt. 2

In our last article we discussed giving a sense of purpose to your child by discussing with them Allah's statement, "I have not created the jinn and mankind except to worship Me" (Al-Thariyaat, 56). Communicating to your child such deep and powerful concepts is going to be entirely dependent on how well you understand them and even more importantly, practice them. Not everyone is gifted with the ability to express things clearly, but so much of what we learn in life is through the examples, both good and bad, of others. The spiritual truths about Islam are so simple: worship your Creator and shun the worship of anything else, Love Him, Fear Him, and Trust in Him more than anything else. These are clear truths that any man, woman, or child can intellectually understand, but to comprehend them with your heart is a different matter. That type of understanding can only occur with reading, contemplation, prayer, good deeds, and patience through good times and bad times.The deeper your relationship is with our Creator, the more able you will be to communicate these truths to your child with simple words and an honest example. There is no shortcut.

There is no joy in worship if you don't have an understanding of who you are worshiping. Your child needs to know about his Creator and one of the most intuitive and effective ways to do this is to expose them to the wonders of nature. Take them to parks and forests and show them the connection between the verse, "All praise is due to Allah, the Lord of the Worlds", and all the beautiful things they see around them. The Arabic word العالمين (Al- Alameen, translated here as "The Worlds"), is the plural of علم (Alam), which means, "a sign" or "indicator". Thus, the verse implies that the Creation is a sign and indicator the Creator. There is beauty in this world because our Creator is beautiful. To put it another way, could this world be beautiful if it's Creator was not? Talk to your child about the trees and sky and rain and soil and how they all work together in perfect harmony, and then explain to them that this is the work of a Beautiful, Wise, and Merciful God. By showing them the connection between the physical world around them and the influence of their Unseen Creator, you will be building the foundation for a powerful sense of wonder and attachment to their Lord.

And Allah knows best.