A muslim woman sits stoically


I’m a Muslim Parent and Here’s What I Go Through Every Time Tragedy Strikes

May 24, 2019

When a tragedy strikes here or anywhere in the world, and innocent lives are lost, two thoughts flash through my mind instantly: how will I tell my four- and six-year-old children about the incident; and I hope the incident isn’t committed by someone claiming to be Muslim.

As a Canadian woman who is visibly Muslim (I wear a hijab), the impact of tragedies involving Muslims is very real. And when you add parenting to the mix, it’s astoundingly tougher.

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When the New Zealand mosque shooting happened about two months ago, it took me a few days to process the hate that consumes our world. We are surrounded by countless incidents that exemplify this hate in action, from the 50 innocent lives that were lost in New Zealand in 2019 and the 11 worshippers killed at the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting in 2018 to those lost and injured in Quebec in 2017.

In 2017, my kids were too young to understand, but now that they are older, the time for these difficult discussions has come.

Raising My Kids Not to Hate 

As parents, we cannot shield our children from the ugly in this world. But we can take that ugly and use it to empower our children by using these incidents as teachable moments. We can turn these tragedies into lessons by using our words and actions to counter hate with compassion and understanding.

Following the New Zealand shooting, I explained to my six-year-old that sometimes people do not like each other because of different reasons such as their religion or how they look or sound, and sometimes they do mean things as a result. I was mindful not to paint any graphic scenes because I did not want to instill any fear in him at such a young age. I want my children to associate places of worships as sacred havens of peace, where one goes to seek a sense of community, belonging and spirituality. I wanted to give my son a solution so he wouldn't feel powerless, so I told him that we can fight hate through our words and actions, by being nice, appreciative and accepting of each other despite our differences.

I realize that this sounds overly simplistic, but why complicate things? One of my goals as a mother is to try and break down barriers that seem so engrained in our DNA by countering evil with good.

We can turn these tragedies into lessons by using our words and actions to counter hate with compassion and understanding.

Kids absorb the things we tell them, because their brains are like little sponges. They look up to us as their parents and our actions and attitudes inform their thinking in unimageable ways. If we radiate compassion, practice inclusion, embrace diversity and truly believe that our country continues to succeed because of it, not in spite of it, I believe our children will grow to become compassionate and inclusive young adults.

They will be at the forefront in building a safer and more inclusive and welcoming Canada. If we talk about exemplary friends and neighbours who are doing great things to promote these values, our children will be inspired and perhaps empowered to follow suit. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern comes to mind, who I believe  reacted with compassion following the tragic events in Christchurch. 

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Sometimes, as a parent, it takes many chats over dinner. Other times, it's the simple actions that our kids can learn from.

I remember months ago when the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting happened, my son and I joined other Muslims to form a ring of peace at one of our local synagogues to express our grief and show our support. He now knows that when difficult things happen to others, we should lend a helping hand or shoulder to cry on.

When we remain silent and leave things unsaid, our children will certainly get information elsewhere and the accuracy or bias of that information is questionable. Being compassionate and expressing the values we hold dear as Canadians begins at home.

Article Author Khairoon Abbas
Khairoon Abbas

Khairoon was born and raised in Tanzania and is proud to call Canada home for the last 18 years. Her dream was to be on camera as a broadcast reporter, reporting live from different parts of the world. After completing journalism school in Ottawa, she travelled the world as a communications specialist and never looked back. Her experiences living and working in the United States, Europe and Africa have given her quite a rich and unique perspective on life and what it means to be inclusive and accepting of one another. Khairoon lives in Richmond Hill, Ontario, enjoys writing and sharing her parenting journey as a mother to two affectionate boys who keep her on her toes and teach her new things daily. Connect with Khairoon on Instagram and Twitter.

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