Mothering a Muslim by Nazia Erum is an important book in our times. As the world embraces Islamophobia in daily rhetoric and our own nation walks a thin line of communal irrationality, Muslims are increasingly living threatened lives. The fear embeds in the minds and hearts of mothers, who face simple but difficult choices even in selecting a socially-acceptable name, when a child is born into a Muslim family. Do all mothers face this diabolical question – would the child be bullied and socially ostracized if the child’s name connects it to a community? Not all but a Muslim mother, surely, be it in any part of the globe.
Internationally, Muslims are linked to the ISIS and in India oft associated with our neighboring country, with whom we have had a long standing love-hate relationship. Muslim children are exposed to name-calling, random blame-games, emotional bullying, and even physical violence, as early as six-years of age. Impressionable primary graders not only face fear and threat but more disturbingly many children pick up negativity towards a community, from homes by listening to family discussions, political discourses, and hyperventilating television anchors.
The tender age when children need to learn to love and embrace, they learn to isolate. I picked up Erum’s well-researched book because I wanted to know what is happening in our school playgrounds. As a mother, I felt responsible to know the environment in which our children are growing up. Some revelations were shocking, like about the demarcations in sections in schools in Bhopal, and the fear-mongering in schools of NCR. Parents and teachers need to microscopically dissect what we are doing wrong and how we can remedy it. Its heartening to read that some schools have actually taken positive steps and not shunned off incidents as isolated or with a “it happens”, or “they are just children” attitude.
The woes of Muslim mothers doesn’t end in the universe of education but permeates the cosmos of parenting. Unlike other families that would be more than happy with their children taking interest in religion and religious practices, an average Muslim woman is afraid to see her child, particularly, teenagers, take up conventional Islam and its customs. Muslim parents are not naive enough to reject the existence of Islamic terrorism, and seek to watch and protect their children. But their grudge is with society, with us, who shove their children towards radicalism through marked stigma because of religion.
As the book says, “Youth who feel disenfranchised are more susceptible to this pull.” Not all children are conditioned or destined to grow up without insecurities turning to feelings of vengeance. Do, we as a society, ask what makes young children turn to radical Islam or even terrorism. Is it a mirror, we are afraid to hold it up?
Mothering a Muslim is a mirror – we need to read it to understand the significance and the responsibility of the majority to make it a safer place for Muslim children. Children, who feel safe, cherished, significant, and loved do not grow up into damaged adults. We need to ensure that our Muslim children have the right to a happy life and in this the mother of the Muslim should not be alone. Her struggles are a part of our social fabric and we should try to smooth out the wrinkles by inculcating the right ideas in our children.
Bullying and ragging our serious issues and while we educate our children against emotional and physical injury to peers, we should also sensitize them about the intricacies of the minority communities. Children should not be singled out because of their Muslim identity. A little sensitivity and a little more acceptance can change the world. This book can open your eye and encourage you to make the small change with a big impact.
With a good writing style, solid facts, an interesting premise, and a meaningful narrative, this book has all it takes to be on your bookshelf. Read this book to learn more about the difficulties of an average Muslim family – from troubles related to rented accommodation and references, and food habits, which are more obvious, to fears centered around the “haraam police, and dress code. Yes, Mothering a Muslim is an important book, for every mother, and every conscientious social being.
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A bit of escapism on a Monday morning!