The New York Times asked its Muslim readers “how they talk to their children about these difficult times,” and heard back from more than 200 Muslim parents. They published a number of the responses: one parent who taught a son’s preschool class about the Islamic holidays; other parents who warn their children about ISIS recruitment, to be kind and patient and help their neighbors, that the terrorists are not representative of Islamic teachings and that you can be Muslim and American at the same time.
I home-school my three children. Our Muslim kids personally identify with how the Christian pilgrims came here, cut off from everyone and everything they knew, simply to be able to adore God how they thought fit. Our children study how our founding fathers knew that our Creator sees all men as equal, although the fathers themselves fell short of this ideal. At the same time, they study how the Prophet Muhammad could not sleep until any money or food in his home was shared with the less fortunate.
Sammer Lashin in Fremont, Calif.
Children ages 11, 9 and 6
There is no war with the West; the West and Islam are compatible. In fact Islam is more compatible with the ideas of freedom, tolerance and equality than most countries that call themselves Muslim are.
There is no need for a caliphate; we enjoy religious freedom here. No one there does.
Nadeem Ahmed in Mississauga, Ontario
Children ages 18 and 16
I don’t need to talk to them about extremists. I need to show them what Muslims believe and how it affects our daily lives in good ways and how it affects others in good ways. I show them that Allah loves us, to be generous with our money, our charity, and our kindness. I show them that it’s important to be helpful to our neighbors and our elders. I show them all the good that we’re supposed to do is good for us and each other.
Edlyn Sammanasu in Fremont, Calif.
Children ages 8, 5 and 3
I am a physician whose parents immigrated from Pakistan, and my husband is a pediatrician. His parents immigrated from Egypt. We are Americans since birth. And we are Muslims. The two identities go together. We have instilled this identity into our mixed children.
I teach my children the core values of Islam. These core values really make you a good person. They help you to be caring, conscientious, community-minded, green, give to charity and spread happiness. These values do not allow you to be oppressive, wreak terror, kill innocents, or impose your faith.
This is how I talk to my kids. Not just as a reaction to what extremists are doing. But so they learn about the true tenets of their Islamic faith.
Mahnaz Chand Tantawi in Franklin Lakes, N.J.
Twins age 9