How do you raise “good Muslim British citizens”?

Parenting, at the best of times, can be as difficult as it is rewarding, but what happens if what you take to be your religious values muddy the water when it comes to raising your family? If you’re brought up thinking your religion bans any talk about sex, what do you do when your child asks where babies come from?

This kind of question was at the nub of a recent course for Muslim parents – Islamic Values and the Parenting Puzzle – I reported on. Some of the cultural “learnings” that were mistaken as religious teaching included issues such as not talking about sex or ignoring the child’s opinion about family matters.

The course stems from the work of a very forward thinking family practitioner called Arifa Naeem. Naeem used an established course devised by the charity Family Links, which trains parenting support workers, and added extracts from the Qur’an and the Prophet Mohammad’s sayings.Family Links now employs Naeem

One concern among parents is how to reconcile western values and life with their religious or cultural upbringing. The course, as Naeem says, supports parents towards adopting positive practices consistent with Islamic religious values, helping them be “good Muslim British citizens”.

Although I did the story before the murder of Lee Rigby and the ensuing reports about a rise in Islamaphobia, anyone with any assumptions about Islam and Muslims would do well to listen to the words of the many mothers on the course, with their unanimous aim of raising “good Muslim British citizens” and reconciling their eastern heritage with their western context.

Iā€™d like to thank the women, like Ifat, who shared their family stories and their time:

Ifat Nisa feared her teenage son was hanging out with “the wrong crowd”, drinking, smoking or experimenting with drugs ā€“ but when she questioned him, they always argued.

Brought up not to challenge her own parents, Nisa was confused about how to parent an apparently disrespectful teenager. She heard about a parenting course at her mosque in Slough, Berkshire, and despite initially dismissing it ā€“ “My reaction was ‘it’s not Islamic'” ā€“ when she discovered it was tailored for Muslim parents, decided to try it out.

Nisa recalls: “I was worrying I wasn’t a good parent. I was confused why my son was reacting like he did; the course helped me understand his emotions and feelings.” Nisa learned about empathy and stopped blaming and constantly questioning her son. She credits the course for their strong, healthy relationship now.

You can read the rest of the piece here.