Thursday, December 9, 2010

Dear Muslim Parents, Let's Get Real

Dear Muslim Parents,

I hope this letter finds you well. Now that it has found you well - let's get to the point. It is 2010 and we are in America not a village in Palestine or Yemen! Our children are growing up in a country that preaches freedom and democracy - I know you don't think that's a good thing (ok I can write a whole book on what kind of freedom and democracy there is in this country or whether you think there is any - BUT that's NOT the point here), I think the freedom to think as an individual is quite fabulous. Lately, I have been quite proud that more of your daughters are finishing high school and going on to college, that's a start. BUT - God forbid your daughters want to go away for school like OUT OF STATE - Astaghfar Allah! My dear Muslim parents - if your daughter is accepted to Yale, Stamford or Harvard, that's a BIG DEAL, oh and she got a full scholarship, everything is paid for  - WHAT?? You are not letting her go because its too far away and a Muslim girl should not leave her parents home before she is married, right? WRONG! In Islam we must treat our daughters the same as our sons. We must give our children the chance to follow their dreams regardless of their gender. If you trust your daughters, than what's the problem?

Not only are our children growing up in a stressful society full of competition, social acceptance and not to forget its sometimes not that cool to be a Muslim these days if you haven't noticed, and in addition to all of that - your children are feeling misunderstood and in most cases don't feel comfortable talking to you about being a teenager. Oh wait - did you know that your daughters talk to boys in their school and get ready for this.....they actually sit next to them in class! Did you know that's totally okay and is actually quite healthy for their social development. I am all for our daughters marrying Muslims and I am instilling that in my own daughters but I will not raise my daughters based on what they can't do versus what they can. Children need to be taught right from wrong and once they reach adolescence they make their own decisions whether we like it or not. Our job as parents is to equip our children with knowledge in hopes that they refer to that knowledge in the situations they encounter. Hearing the stories of young women in our community who are getting engaged at the age of 16, 17, and 18 leads me to the belief that we have a lot of education to do in our community. I ask that parents think about this question - do you feel that if you had the same opportunities as your children have now you would have gotten married at an early age? I understand that years past are not like the present which is precisely my point - let your children follow their dreams, encourage them, love them when they don't do their chores because they are studying for an exam, let them live and be children, your children.

Parents are reading this thinking - what the hell am I talking about? Yes, I did get married at an early age and was a mother of 3 by the age of 24, and that's only because there is a 3 year age difference between my last two children, and I seem to be healthy, happy and successful. Yes and no. No regrets - my parents at the time were isolated in a close knit Palestinian American community and many girls my age were getting married at that age, so I wasn't the only one. It was actually quite normal and to be frank if you hit the age of 20 and you were not at least engaged, something must have been wrong (obviously I think this statement is crazy but nonetheless that was the sentiment). I happen to be a very strong and independent woman (I know you are all shocked) and was able to continue living my life the way I wanted although obviously there was some delay and some change of my life plans. I also happen to have a supportive family, I have the most AMAZING loving mother that anyone can have who is my children's second mother. I trust her with my kid's lives. I also happen to have a family that is capable of taking care of my children without any reciprocation, they see it as a duty. For me that is not necessarily the norm - so I happen to be lucky. I also believe that my parents always knew the potential I had and are allowing me to live my dreams.

Many of your daughters may not have the same opportunity that I had. Last week I heard a story of a woman whose husband got in a very bad car accident and is now completely handicapped and unable to work. She has four children and has no job skills let alone a high school diploma. She must now find a way to support her family, but how? Another woman whose husband left her with five children and he is nowhere to be found. She has never worked before and has an 8th grade education. When I asked her to tell me what she could have done differently in her life she responded by saying,"I wish that I had finished school and went to college. I was such a good student. I would now be able to find a job and I would not need my husband". An education is your daughter's protection. You never know when you can be in one of the above situations.

An educated woman will always be more confident, independent, and resourceful. Don't you want that for your daughter? I know I want that for mine.


A Muslim Parent (aka a cool mom by the standards of the young ladies in my programs) 


  1. Dear Linda,

    If you don't mind, let me be little more serious and add;
    Education not only creates a better future for our daughters, sisters and wives, but also contributes to the transformation of Muslim society. We are summoned to take forward our community, village, city, State, "Arab-Muslim" world.
    But to get that we need tools. The tools to improve our society are not fighting ideologies –as many have tried thorough history- but knowledge, economy, science, law, religion, art, sport, music… Those tools empower our daughters, sisters and wives who sincerely want to see a more just world. Further more, the paradox that we find our selves happy when we forget our own self and focus on the wellbeing of other is true. Working and sometime fighting (as you used and still do) to improve our Arab-Muslim society through the tools education provides, helps us to develop our own capacities, and brings us the "power" to reach peace (the real peace)and tranquility, although that is not the motive.
    Having said this, we should be mindful that each of us has a double purpose in life, developing our own potentialities, and bettering the kind of world we live in. And the best weapon to walk firmly in these two paths the answer lies in education.


    Now let me get myself out of that serious mode (which you put me in) and put you in different one. And relieve;
    I believe am a well educated father of three kids (Sally 13, Shady 12 and Aboud 8) having a bachelor degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Master one in Engineering Management..
    In 1996, I married my wife "Rania" when she was 17.
    Later, and with all my above mentioned believes, with all my full support, I assisted her to complete her education:
    - High school certificate (Jordan-1997)
    - Driver License (Jordan-1998)
    - Black BMW (2000)
    - English Diploma's (British Council-Amman 2000)
    - Intensive programs in Computer (NYTI 2000)
    - Management Science Diploma's (NYTI 2002)
    Later, and with the same full support, I assisted her to get a good salary job at Modern American School (AMS-Jordan).
    Later in court, she got the legal ending of 10 years marriage; she got the kids and became an educated working divorcee.

    Thanks for Education

    Thanks for our believes


  2. I guess it's a matter of cultural background, not essentially religious background. because I am a muslim from Indonesia, which is a predominantly muslim country. however, having a feminist figure as early as in the 1900s, we had acknowledged the rights to education for women even before the country declared its independence. and I am thankful for being brought up in a family who believes that each and every kids should get as high education as possible, and we still practice Islam faithfully.

    even in the Quran, I doubt there's ever any verse contradicting women the rights to education. the way I see it, any oppression against women in any Islamic nation on earth is a result of cultural interpretation of Quran, not necessarily based on religious teaching.

    people, even Muslim people, really need to start understanding this, and draw a boundary between what really is essential in Islamic belief, and what is commonly practiced in Middle-eastern country in which Islam is embraced by the majority of people. for example: protecting women is Islamic essential,oppressing their rights is cultural.

    I don't mean to demean other cultures, even in my country there are people who simply can't understand this boundary. I personally think that Allah would never command to prevent a woman from gaining a better education, or even to drive, as well as Allah would not command us to burn everyone who is different from us (in terms of religions). because I believe that Allah is The Merciful, it is human who flaws.

    I hope you get what I'm trying to say. that we need to stop identify some cultural background with Islamic teachings. Islam is not a harsh religion as many would like to think, it might have grown in slightly harsh cultural backgrounds, but the core of Islamic teaching really is about peace and moving forward.

    It's the media who promotes the negative image. I think as Muslims, we the more educated ones, if I may say, should prove it otherwise.

  3. It's great to hear you saying this. When i say things like, I want my girl to go to Stamford or Boston if she wants to and can.. I feel like a heretic! So it's nice to hear it coming from you, believe me i'm going to share this post. Also, related to the above comment- i have noticed that in I've met a few women Phd's from former USSR muslim countries in western asia- and their experiences all seem to speak to the freedom to travel abroad to pursue and education with family support- much more so than say- middle class egyptian women that i've me.. just some "unscientific" observations..

  4. How would you answer the opinion of actual scholars of Islam and their opinion that the hadeeth narrated by al-Bukhaari (1729) and Muslim (2391) from Ibn ‘Abbaas (may Allaah be pleased with him) who said: The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said: “No woman should travel except with a mahram, and no man should enter upon her unless there is a mahram with her.” A man said: “O Messenger of Allaah, I want to go out with such and such an army and my wife wants to go for Hajj.” He said: “Go out with her.”