SAUDI ARABIA: A Conversation with My Kids on Terrorism and Muslim Identity

SAUDI ARABIA: A Conversation with My Kids on Terrorism and Muslim Identity

Children of Mama B 600

Mama B’s 3 children and dog, Camden, on a stroll in the Saudi Arabian desert.

It occurred to me the other day that I have never talked to my children about terrorism. I actively try to make sure they don’t see the news or hear me talking about the world we are smack in the middle of. So I wanted to know what they knew, as a 13-year old and a 10-year old, about terrorism.

Below is the transcript of the conversation I had with my children a few days ago. To give you a little bit of background my son has moved this year to an international school with children from all over the world. So while being older he is also exposed to a lot of nationalities including Americans. My daughter goes to a Saudi school and is exposed to many Arab nationalities.

A Conversation on Terrorism with My Sons

Me: Who are the terrorists?

S: Da’ish (ISIS). They are people who claim to be muslims and to be killing ‘B’Ism Allah’ (in the name of God) but they’re just murderers.

J: Like in France they say, “I’m muslim! I’m muslim!”, and start killing people and now everybody hates us.

Me: Do you really think everybody hates us?

J: Yes.

Me: Like who?

J: The Americans.

Me: Why do you think the Americans hate us?

J: Because they are voting to kick the muslims out of America, and they won’t let us in if we go. I saw it on the news. (Apparently, I am not doing as good a job of keeping them away from the news or hearing about the news, as I thought.)

Me: Do you think all Americans feel that way?

J: Well Anya doesn’t… (Anya is my best friend in NY.)

Me: You know, saying that all Americans hate us is like an American saying all Muslims hate them.

J: That’s what I heard.

Me: Don’t believe everything you hear. The loudest voices are usually the ones saying the most controversial and hateful things. Good news hardly ever makes the news. You’ll never see a piece about how people are getting along and how the majority of the world wants to just live in peace.

S: Actually many people have a change of heart when that muslim guy was saying, “Hug me if you trust me.” He put himself in a vulnerable position. People could have punched him. People could have hurt him, but he trusted people.

(He is referring to the viral video of a man standing blindfolded in the middle of the street with a sign saying something along the lines of “I am a muslim, and I trust you. If you trust me, hug me” It was a very touching clip as so many people hugged him that day).

J: I worry mama that if we meet people and we get to know them and we liked each other but they didn’t know we were actually muslim then we tell them I feel like they won’t like us that much or something bad will happen… But what I’m most scared of is you know how they say they are muslim and they kill people? What if they do it to us?

S: The most people the terrorists are killing are muslims!

J: Mama I’m scared.

Me: Why do you think this is happening? What do you think they want?

S: They want money or world domination.

J: I don’t want to talk about this anymore.

I didn’t realise they thought of all of this, any of this, at all. Here, in Saudi, as is the case in most of the Arab world, we eat sleep and breath politics and news. It’s hard not to when it is happening all around you, live and direct, in your time zone and within earshot. So I really shouldn’t be surprised at all when my children are exposed to it.

Events of terrorism are causing so much confusion as my children cannot marry what these people are doing in the name of their religion to what their religion is actually teaching them.

Now they have to understand a world where the image of their faith is so twisted it no longer resembles anything they have learned or seen around them. And understand that they may be judged, and, yes, hated, by some people because of it.

My Own Childhood Experience

As children we were lucky enough to travel to Europe and America. We have always been stereotyped as “rich arabs”, despite the fact that we looked and acted very average. Or “loud arabs”, despite the fact that we were always soft spoken and respectful. Or “rude arabs”, despite the fact that my mother taught us the importance of manners because we learned that our religion is how we treat people.

At the age of 12 in a camp in Vermont I got asked if I had an oil well in my backyard, if we rode camels, and if we lived in tents. I said yes to all of those questions because it was funny. And I explained that in modern days now we live in two story tents. Everyone laughed.

Later that day at camp, one of the girls asked me in the bathroom if it was true that we cut off the genitals of men who rape women. She said she hoped it was true as her sister got raped, and she wished someone would have cut off his genitals. Pop went my little bubble right then and there. I remember hoping it was true. I, in fact, had no idea if it was or wasn’t. (It isn’t in case you are wondering).

In University, despite the fact that I was a Saudi young woman living in London and studying graphic design, when I got engaged I still got asked by one of my professors if I was forced to. Because I am an Arab woman they decided I must be an oppressed woman.

Generally, I grew up with people thinking I was filthy rich, oppressed, or backwards. But I never had people fearing me or hating me because of my religion. The stereotypes that my children deal with today are different and religious based.

As is the way of the world — the masses get punished for the deeds of the few. I see my little children, and myself, as ambassadors for our religion and our country. But I do resent the fact that my 10-year old daughter thinks that telling people her religion will make them hate her.

Have you had to talk to your kids about terrorism? Have you ever been discriminated against because of your religion?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by World Mom, Mama B., of Saudi Arabia. 

Photo credit to the author. 

Mama B (Saudi Arabia)

Mama B’s a young mother of four beautiful children who leave her speechless in both, good ways and bad. She has been married for 9 years and has lived in London twice in her life. The first time was before marriage (for 4 years) and then again after marriage and kid number 2 (for almost 2 years). She is settled now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (or as settled as one can be while renovating a house). Mama B loves writing and has been doing it since she could pick up a crayon. Then, for reasons beyond her comprehension, she did not study to become a writer, but instead took graphic design courses. Mama B writes about the challenges of raising children in this world, as it is, who are happy, confident, self reliant and productive without driving them (or herself) insane in the process. Mama B also sheds some light on the life of Saudi, Muslim children but does not claim to be the voice of all mothers or children in Saudi. Just her little "tribe." She has a huge, beautiful, loving family of brothers and sisters that make her feel like she wants to give her kids a huge, loving family of brothers and sisters, but then is snapped out of it by one of her three monkeys screaming “Ya Maamaa” (Ya being the arabic word for ‘hey’). You can find Mama B writing at her blog, Ya Maamaa . She's also on Twitter @YaMaamaa.

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NIGERIA: A Muslim Mother Recounts News of the Paris Attack

NIGERIA: A Muslim Mother Recounts News of the Paris Attack

2015 WMB Quote Hijab in Paris Aisha

My husband came into the room while I was still sleeping on the morning of the attack and told me of a deadly attack in Paris. In my half state of sleep I blocked the news out. I didn’t want to take in another pain. My body wasn’t ready to grieve.

I slept on hoping I would wake up, and it would all have been a mistake or a dream. I woke up and refused to watch the news or go onto social media. I didn’t want what I thought I heard my husband say to be true. I lived in cowardly denial.
I finally put on my phone which I had switched off, and I then had a call from a friend. They said, “Yes, there has been an attack. And, yes, many died!” “Oh God!”, I cried out.

“Has anyone claimed responsibility?”, I asked fearfully. “ISIS.”, my friend told me. “Not again,” I groaned.

To lose a loved one so brutally is horror. To know that somebody somewhere decided to kill your loved one who never offended them and whom they probably had never even seen is painful. An accident, I can understand, but that I can never.

In a month’s time my daughter will be going to France for a ski trip. Will she be looked at differently because of her hijab? My thoughts are that someone in Paris may look at my daughter in her hijab differently from the rest when she is as much victim.

When an attack happens in places like Paris it’s not that their lives are more important, but that the outcry is high even from other countries that have their fair share of terrorism. It’s fear! With all the security in such places? How can this occur?

If these tragic events can happen in places like Paris with their state of the art, high level security then they can wipe us out, here, in Nigeria with our best security. This is what goes through our minds.

It can embolden some to attack with all the copycat crimes going on. We have had so many attacks in recent times. It leaves a palpable fear in the air.

I then saw outrage on social media of people who felt that too much emphasis was placed by the world on the French lives rather than on all lives. I couldn’t find it in me to be outraged. The French cried out to the world and the world joined them in their moment of grief.

When we are attacked in Nigeria a lot of us within Nigeria seem to not care. Even our government. So how would the world cry with us when we have refused to cry for each other?

An attack happened a while ago in which over a 100 were killed it took more than 3 days before there was an official statement from the President condemning the attack. There was outrage from a few of us, and we were attacked by so many for demanding the government acknowledge an attack and death of Nigerians.

With such callousness from our own, how would the world acknowledge our grief?

When the world gets no official statement from Nigerian government, how can they grieve with us when we haven’t even acknowledged that ours were killed?

I am a pragmatic person and would always tell myself the truth no matter how it hurts. I cannot begrudge the French and the world supporting them when we haven’t supported our own. Until we take our lives seriously no one else will, and it would always be painful when my government within hours would commiserate with other countries when they are attacked and refused to acknowledge attack in our own country until days later.

I have been shown I matter by individuals reaching out to me when there is attack from different parts of the world, especially the World Moms Blog family. You would not understand how touching those moments are. It shows I am a member of the human race.

My daughter asked me just yesterday if she would still be going to Paris next month. I told her, “YES!!!” No one will make us live in fear.

Do they have heart? Do they know what it is to lose a loved one? Why do they inflict such on others? What is Islamic about terror? NOTHING!!!

Islam preaches peace. Islam enjoins a right of environment & animals on us. One is not allowed in Islam to cut down a tree.

God said in the Qur’an to kill one human is like killing humanity. We have to unite and let the goodness in us all outshine the few evil ones. Terrorist attack to anyone anywhere in the world is terrorist attack to everyone everywhere in the world.

God rest the souls of the dead and console the families of the departed all over the world. It’s not easy.

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by contributor Aisha Yesufu of Nigeria. 

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