I met a Muslim woman.
She didn’t wear hijab. She wore a mini skirt and high heels.
She was young, intelligent and trying to make it in the corporate world.
“You are very brave. I wouldn’t have the guts. It’s just too hard,” she said. “They wouldn’t have hired me if I wore hijab. It’s just the impression it gives. Maybe later, when I get married I might consider it.”
I was mortified. Not at her, at the situation she was put in. This young girl, and so many like her, who feel like they have to sacrifice who they are to fit in.
I know what it is like. I have been to many interviews with my hijab and later with my niqab. I have heard it all.
“You just don’t fit into our culture,” or “I don’t think it’s a good idea for customers to see you like that,” and “You won’t be able to do your job,”
Of course, there are worse lines that I have heard others like me listen to at interviews like, “Sorry, Muslim women won’t be able to handle our office, we are quiet hard core and you are too submissive…,” or “We’d prefer a man for this job, I don’t think you will be able to deal with the boys in the office, we swear a lot…” and worst of all “Do you support Isis?”
Dealing with discrimination
Islamophobia is everywhere, whether it is subtle or right out in your face discrimination, we have to deal with it everyday. Are your children prepared? Are we pretending the world is all sunshine and rainbows? Do your children know how to handle these difficult situations? Are you being real with them?
We should be raising confident little Muslims, who are not afraid to be themselves and are able to explain their beliefs to others in easy to understand ways. We should be teaching our children how to cope with difficult situations and give them the skills to handle the hate without hating themselves in the process.
Muslim Girls Have It Especially Hard
Little girls are especially prone to discrimination, especially if she chooses to wear the hijab. Apart from gender discrimination, racial profiling, she also has to deal with Islamophobia. She should not feel as if she has to choose between a job she loves and a way of life she loves. She should not have to sacrifice her identity for the sake a of earning a living. She should not have to sell her soul to make a life in this world.
Yes, we know that it is a husband’s responsibility to take care of his wife and she has no need to work, but in real life, not all women have that privilege. Not all women have fathers, uncles, brothers, sons or husbands to take care of them, or who are even willing to do that anymore.
Far from the oppressive image created in the West, Islam encourages women to run their own businesses, to have their own wealth and make their own financial decisions without interference from others. Are you preparing your daughter for that?
Does your daughter know the rights Islam has given her as a woman? Does she know how privileged she is compared to others? Is she confident that she is growing up to be a righteous Muslim woman? Are you confident about that?
10 Tips to raise confident Muslim kids
- Give them confident role models to look up to, let them read about historic and current figures that have overcome hardship and discrimination, people that have risen above their circumstances and still held on to their faith.
- Emulate confidence yourself. You have to practice what you preach. You are your child’s primary role model. Think about how the decisions you make about how you react to discrimination, racism, Islamophobia and diversity impact their understanding of these issues.
- Be open about discussing these issues with them and let them know that even if it is difficult, they have the power to overcome it with the grace of Allah.
- Teach them to be themselves and hold on to their beliefs and identity because it adds meaning to their lives and enriches who they are. Having a strong Imaan will help them deal with many difficulties in life. Teach them the meaning of Tawakkul early in life.
- Encourage them when they have to try new and difficult things, show that you have confidence in them and their abilities
- Focus your praise on their efforts instead of their outcomes eg. say, “You worked so hard on this, I am proud of you,” instead of “You won the competition, well done.”
- Have empathy for your child, they are growing up in different circumstances which may often be more difficult than you realise. Tell them that you understand where they are coming from. Let them feel heard.
- Affirm your child’s self worth and ability to make a difference to the world. Let them know they have a voice to speak up, say when something is wrong, share their feelings and to use it to make a difference to the world. Give them confidence to use their voice instead of violence to change the world for the better.
- Teach your kids to respect themselves and the differences in others and that not everyone is meant to fit the same mould.
- Give them tools to help them deal with stress, anger, frustration and anxiety. Use methods from the Sunnah and remind them to use it often.
At the end of the day, we have many trials and tribulations to deal with as Muslims. Give your children the best tools to handle them, i.e strong faith and confidence in their Muslim identity.