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When You or Someone You Love Needs to Restrain a Violent or Abusive Spouse

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Bismillah walhamdolillah. To begin, I am an attorney licensed in both Texas and California, but I am not a specialist in family law, and I am not submitting this post as legal advice nor as a substitute for legal advice.

Rather I have come across some very useful and (sadly) necessary information for people — let’s be frank, usually women — who have to seek the assistance of law enforcement to restrain a violent or abusive spouse (or former spouse).

The following information is from the website: www.texaslawhelp.org, and was provided to that site by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

Personal Safety Planning

Information provided by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid

Safety During An Explosive Incident

• If there is an argument, try to be in a place that has an exit. Avoid the bathroom, kitchen or any room that may contain weapons.
• Practice how to get out safely. Know what doors, windows, elevators, stairwells, or fire escapes you would use.
• Keep purse and car keys readily available.
• Identify a friend or neighbor you can tell about the violence and ask them to call 911 if they hear a disturbance coming from your house.
• Arrange a code word to alert your children, friends and family that you need help.
• Plan where you will go if you have to leave home & a back-up place (even if you don’t think you are going to need it).
• In a dangerous situation, appease the abuser if possible to keep him or her calm. You have the right to protect yourself until you are out of danger.

[alert type=red ]Remember: You don’t deserve to be hit or threatened[/alert]

Safety For Your Children
• Talk to your children about a safety plan when you are not with them.
• Tell your children’s school and/or daycare who has permission to pick up the children.
• Teach your children how to dial 911 for police and fire assistance.
• Practice your escape plan with the children, if appropriate.

Safety When You Are Preparing To Leave
• Abusers are more violent when they believe that the person they have abused is leaving the relationship. This is the time to be most cautious.
• Get your own post office box so that you can receive checks and mail.
• Open a checking or savings account in your own name at a different bank and try to get a credit card in your own name, to increase your independence.
• Leave money, an extra set of keys, copies of important papers, extra clothes and medicine with someone you can trust so you can leave quickly.
• Keep change for phone calls on you at all times. Using a calling card is not safe!
• You can seek shelter and help by calling 1-800-799-SAFE. Figure out who would be able to let you stay with them or lend you some money.
• If you have pets, make arrangements for them to be cared for in a safe place.
• Review your personal safety plan often.

Safety And Your Emotional Health

• The experience of being battered and verbally degraded by partners is usually exhausting and emotionally draining.
• If you are thinking about going back to your abusive partner, talk to someone you trust about your options.
• Have positive thoughts about yourself and be assertive about what you need.
• Plan to attend a support group.
• If you have to communicate with your partner, take someone with you for moral support & meet in a public place.

Safety at Home

• Use different banks, grocery stores and shopping malls. Shop at hours different from those you used when residing with the abuser. Change your routine!
• If you stay in your home:
o Change the locks. Buy additional locks for the windows, and don’t forget the patio door.
o Tell your neighbors that the batterer no longer lives there, and to call the police if they see the batterer near your home.
o Screen your calls.
• If you move:
o Never call the abuser from your home, or tell them where you live.
o Request an unlisted number from the phone company.

Safety at Work or in Public

• Carefully decide who you will inform at work about your situation.
• Inform your supervisor, building security officers, and/or co-workers of your situation. If possible, provide them with a photograph of your abuser.
• Arrange to have someone screen your calls, whether it is the receptionist, voicemail or a co-worker.
• Have a safety plan to use when you leave work:
o Ask someone to escort you to and from your vehicle or bus.
o Park in a secure, well-lit area.
o Use a variety of routes to come and go from home.
o Think of what you would do if something happened on the way home.
o Avoid isolated roads.

CHECKLIST: ITEMS TO TAKE WITH YOU

IDENTIFICATION
‰ Driver’s license
‰ Birth Certificate
‰ Children’s birth certificates
‰ Social Security cards
‰ Welfare Card
‰ Health Insurance/HMO cards

FINANCIAL
‰ Money/Credit/ATM cards (in your name)
‰ Checking/ Savings account books
LEGAL PAPERS
‰

Protective Order
‰ Lease, rental agreement, house deed
‰ Car registration and insurance papers
‰ Health and life insurance papers
‰ Medical records for your family
‰ School/vaccination records
‰ Work permits / Green Cards
‰ Income Tax / IRA’s
‰ Passport / Visa
‰ Divorce and custody papers
‰ Marriage license
‰ Mortgage / Loan payment books
OTHER
‰ Medications
‰ House, car, and office keys
‰ Jewelry
‰ Address book
‰ Pictures of you, children & abuser
‰ Sentimental items
‰ Change of clothes
‰ Children’s favorite toys/blankets
‰ Toiletries/diapers

[alert type=red ]REMEMBER: DON’T RISK YOUR LIFE OR YOUR CHILDREN’S LIVES FOR ANY OF THESE ITEMS. MATERIAL THINGS ARE REPLACEABLE… LIVES ARE NOT!![/alert]

But again, the information I copied and pasted is good for a person in many parts of the world, but the form itself will only help you in Texas, wAllaho’Alim.

If your spouse beats you, or threatens you or your children or other loved ones with physical violence, or makes you afraid constantly, then please seek help. But a woman should not have to be beaten or physically hurt before she has access to help. You have a right to feel safe. If you are in doubt about whether your situation is abusive, you still have every right to ask for help. And if you are not being abused, but you know someone in such a situation, please do not wait until some terrible act takes place.

Bismillah walhamdolillah. May Allah accept my repentance and yours. I am an attorney, a stepfather, a husband, a son, and a Muslim. Studying Islam is a means, reflecting what I have learned is a must, and to Allah is the inevitable return. If you would like my help, know that Allah is the source of all aid. If you would like to contact me, try tariqnisarahmed at Gmail, LinkedIn, Twitter, or add me as a friend on Facebook.

34 Comments

34 Comments

  1. Avatar

    F

    January 27, 2011 at 7:54 AM

    Assalamu Alaikum,

    Be the best with your wives because that is what the Prophet (peace be upon him) ordered.
    But at the same time you have to let her know that she can’t cross certain limits. If she is hitting you, all you have to do in return is grab her hands tightly so she is not able to hit you. Once she can’t let go and realizes you are much stronger than her, she will automatically not try that again.

    So without even having to hit or abuse her, you make a point telling her to stop what is doing.

    • Avatar

      Tariq Ahmed

      January 27, 2011 at 9:38 AM

      you started out with wisdom, because you were borrowing from the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam. where did you get lost after that?

      as for what you offered from yourself, or without attribution, akhee, if you know a brother with marital problems, and you know him well, so well that you know how much force he would use executing your advice, then and only then (and in most cases not even then), would giving that advice be wise. and Allah Knows best.

      • Avatar

        F

        January 27, 2011 at 10:37 AM

        You are right Tariq.
        I didn’t realize that someone might use excessive force in following the advice. In fact, that thought didn’t cross my mind.

        A woman hitting a man is like challenging his manhood saying that you are physically weaker than me and can’t protect yourself. Behavior that is rewarded is the behavior that is repeated. Either he lets her hit him or he stops her. My advice was to use the latter and send a message not to do it again WITHOUT hitting her.

        I don’t believe that a husband should let her wife hit him in the hope that he will correct her later. Ideally, she wouldn’t hit him at all. But if she is doing it, he should defend himself without resorting to violence.

        This is not going to solve the real problem but at least it would put an end to the violence from the wife. Though I see your point that a man might resort to violence based on that advice.

        Allah knows best.

  2. Avatar

    Olivia

    January 27, 2011 at 2:02 PM

    That was a very beneficial post. It is sad to see the extremely high numbers of people who know someone who has been abused! I consider myself blessed to be in that meager 12% that doesn’t know anyone! (or at least they didn’t tell me). May Allah help our community to have happy, fun marriages!

    In response to Brother F’s post, I hit Siraaj all the time (or rather, give him a punch in the bicep), but he never does any of this hand-grabbing nor do I think his manhood feels threatened in the least. You know what he does? He picks me up and puts me around his neck in the back and spins me until that tickly feeling in the bottom of my stomach in combination with my laugther makes me scream and then he tosses me on the bed. I think only a man who is truly secure with his manhood can manage that.

    By the way, I think couples need to be more aware of what “emotional” abusal connotates. So many people take the worst verbal treatment but think because there is no physical violence they aren’t being abused.

    • Avatar

      F

      January 27, 2011 at 2:46 PM

      Sister Olivia,

      There is a difference between the angry kind of hitting with the intention to humiliate and how you might hit your husband. I’m sure your intention is not to cause harm or humiliate him.

      This is a very specific situation where a wife wants to degrade the husband by hitting him because she either perceives him to be passive or weak.

      • Avatar

        Olivia

        January 27, 2011 at 3:15 PM

        That’s true. I was only trying to point out, using my poke-at-Siraaj humor (i love to see him squirm), that a man shouldn’t feel so insecure that he needs his wife to reaffirm his manhood for him through her behavior in an argument. i understand that the behavior in and of itself is wrong from the wife (the hitting), but her husband should want to stop her simply because of that: it’s wrong to hit another person, especially someone you love. I think he should have the confidence and leadership to extricate his manhood from the equation.

        Moreoever, if a woman is unleashing herself, the best thing he can do is something tender and loving. He can hold her hands, but then how about kissing them? The best thing to do in an argument is break the momentum. But if both partners are childish then they’ll never be mature in their marriage enough to participate in something like the spin-and-toss.

        And of course I only hit Siraaj’s bicep out of jest, and only when the occasion calls for it. It’s somewhat irresistible, like pinching a baby’s cheek.

        • Avatar

          F

          January 27, 2011 at 3:23 PM

          And I agree with you :-)

          The thing is relationships are very complex. The kissing approach works for a relationship that has love in it. But unfortunately, that’s the not case for many many marriages. One of my closest friend told me there is no love in their marriage. Friendship maybe, but no love.

          Sometimes there is so much built up anger in each person’s heart and if there was never a time that love existed in the marriage, then it is hard to fall back to love approach. Perhaps through mercy…..

          • Avatar

            Olivia

            January 27, 2011 at 4:52 PM

            I wonder if a couple that has no love can conjure up some?

          • Avatar

            F

            January 27, 2011 at 5:39 PM

            I would hope so but things aren’t that simple. Even most marriages which start out as love, after 10-15 years the mercy overtakes the love aspect. I believe it’s the progression of a relationship that it brings out many different aspects — love, mercy, kindness, etc. — as time goes on.

            Love, to be honest, is very over rated. While it is an important component of a relationship, it’s not an essential one. A person’s relationship to Allah is more significant. Because when people love each other, even if they are not Muslim, they will treat each other well. But only a true God fearing person will even in a relationship without love treat his/her partner well out of the fear/hope of Allah (swt).

          • Avatar

            Umm Kulthum

            January 27, 2011 at 8:25 PM

            Salaam,

            Wouldn’t you say this is a negative approach to marriage?

            I just wanted to ask generally to anyone reading, how does a man or women ensure they don’t end up with a abusive partner? Alhamdulillah, my father has never hit my mum, so the thought of going through it is worrying…

            As that’s pretty scary!

          • Avatar

            abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

            January 27, 2011 at 11:24 PM

            well, umm kulthum, part of the problem is that people may be too insecure or too immature (immaturity is not about a person’s age, it is childishness in the sense of temper tantrums, etc) when they get married.

            as sister olivia’s original comment demonstrates, kindness and humor accomplish much good in a marriage.

            and there is a hadith of an instance where Umm al Mumineen Aisha got terribly jealous that another wife of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam had sent food to Aisha’s house while there were guests of the Prophet there. she was overcome by jealousy and loudly overturned all the food. while we may have our opinions, the best opinion was obviously that of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam. he just smiled and told his guests that “your mother is upset.”

            it wasn’t a threat to him in any way, and it did not trigger a fight between them. nor did he, sull Allaho alayhim wa sallam, so much as lay a finger on her.

          • Avatar

            Hello Kitty

            January 27, 2011 at 11:48 PM

            I’ve always found that Hadith jaw-droppingly amazing and powerful. The love, compassion, sweetness and forgiveness demonstrated by our beloved prophet, even in the must humble home interactions with one of his wives here moves me to tears over how kind it was to respond in that manner.

          • Avatar

            F

            January 28, 2011 at 6:47 AM

            In the end, we are all a product of our experiences. There is a perception that everything can be solved with kindness and mercy. As someone who has come across people where this approach has not worked or can’t be applied, I realize that realism of dealing with relationships.

            Until we do come across such instances where the theory breaks down, it is easy to hypothesize. If you are in a relationship where love, mercy, and kindness dominate, be thankful to Allah(swt).

            But don’t use a single experiences as a barometer of how all marital problems can be solved. Marriage is not about holding hands and walking off into the sunset.

          • Avatar

            abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

            January 28, 2011 at 7:12 AM

            On the contrary, there is always benefit in citing specific examples, when the model is the perfect example of the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam. Whom Allah sent as a benefit and as a mercy to mankind. Whom Allah sent as a guide to help mankind leave every kind of darkness for the light of Allah.

            Rather there is no need for constant pessimism, no need for depression, and no need for people to abandon either hope or joy.

            Indeed this article is offered to remind abused spouses that they do not have to succumb to abuse nor to any of the evils that abuse brings. Alhamdolillah.

            Akhhee, “F,” neither abandon your intellect nor restrict the scope of your hope in the Mercy and Compassion of Allah, and the solace and refuge He offers to you, me, and every one. May Allah be pleased with you and with all of us.

            Let’s stick a bit more closely to the topic of this article.

      • Avatar

        Umm Kulthum

        January 28, 2011 at 9:31 AM

        ‘F’ – what are you trying to say? Sorry, I’m trying to understand what you are trying to promote and put forward?

        Perhaps I’m not understanding…

        Someone sent this to be today: http://www.zohrasarwari.com/books.php – The first book, I guess this can help such a person.

    • Avatar

      abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

      January 27, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      “I think only a man who is truly secure…”

      LOL, just for the mental image of Siraaj spinning someone WWE style (and I prefer my long-beard-Siraaj mental image for this contemplation).

      jazak Allah khayr for that. also, I agree 100% that we need to explain to people the seriousness of emotional abuse.

      • Avatar

        Olivia

        January 27, 2011 at 4:53 PM

        the kids often used the beard against him. now that its trimmed he’s utterly invincible in family throwdowns.

        • Avatar

          abu abdAllah Tariq Ahmed

          January 27, 2011 at 9:10 PM

          “I think only a man who is truly secure…”

          LOL, sorry, still laughing. I read your first comment to my wife, and she started laughing, too. she said that you expressed exactly why she punches my biceps. but I can’t lift her over my head, so it takes more than being secure in masculinity to do the helicopter toss. mashaAllah siraaj’s physical fitness is as admirable as his humor.

  3. Avatar

    Mezba

    January 28, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    The problem with helping a woman in an abusive relationship is that they ultimately go back to their abusive spouses. I know two women who asked for help when they were fleeing their abusive spouses, and people did help (it became a police case about armed assault).

    After a few months, in both cases, the women were back with their spouses as if nothing has happened (“oh just a little mis-understanding”). And in fact, they cut off relations with their friends who helped them, because in their words “these are not true friends who broke up a house”.

    So be careful when you want to help someone fleeing an abusive relationship.

    • Avatar

      Tariq Ahmed

      January 28, 2011 at 9:29 PM

      I agree that people should tread carefully before intervening in some way between two spouses. and that is why the advice that shaykh Yaser Birjas once gave me comes to mind. as imam of several masajid, people would often come to him with complaints about their spouses, both husbands and wives.

      he would not make up his mind about the situation at all until he had at least heard from both spouses.

      and that makes much sense to me because too often, especially in America, Muslims and nonMuslims alike are ready and willing to offer an opinion/fatwa/or condemnation on any issue or any incident or any person. people will pass judgments at the drop of a hat, and do so without remorse, as though each of us were all-knowing and all-wise. and of course we are much, much less than that.

      here is a case-study for you: a man and his wife have a huge argument, and he leaves her for a whole month– he lives in a different part of the house and won’t approach her. when he finally does, she asks him why he came back so early.

      now if you have been busy forming your opinions and questions about this couple, know this: no one asked you. indeed this “couple” was none other than the Prophet sull Allaho alayhi wa sallam and his beloved wife Aisha radi Allaho anha.

      so we need to understand that this article is not encouraging people to interject themselves into the lives of neighbors and friends or relatives. perhaps we also need an expert, a social worker or other guest writer, to write an article on spotting signs of abuse versus merely signs of a couple that argues — something that happens in healthy marriages, like the Prophet’s, too.

  4. Avatar

    Olivia

    January 28, 2011 at 9:42 AM

    There is definitely a need to help women who are in these situations, but let this be a lesson that educating a woman abuse begins with shes a little girl. Not only should she (or her male siblings) not be a abused, but a girl has to be taught from the cradle her value and not to let anyone trample on that.

  5. Avatar

    justmoi

    January 28, 2011 at 7:51 PM

    There are men who hit without excessive provocation. Sometimes it will be bilateral wherby the woman hits her male partner and he returns the blow with greater force. However, in my own case, I have experienced violence for merely politely disagreeing over extremely trivial matters. It is incredibly hard to leave an abusive relationship (I have tried on several occasions) but have always returned because of the extreme guilt that it always provokes in me. Ten years ago I would have looked upon a woman such as myself as mad, and whilst I do see that it is damaging to my children and probably to my mental health, I feel that the constant mood swings to which my husband has subjected me to have altered my psychology.

    Please make dua for me.

    • Avatar

      Tariq Ahmed

      January 28, 2011 at 9:32 PM

      may Allah safeguard you and your family, and guide you and all of your family including your husband.

    • Avatar

      Umm Aman

      January 29, 2011 at 3:19 PM

      assalamu alaikkum warahmathullahi wabarakathuhu,
      May Allah,subhanata’ala ease your situation, reward your patience and bless your marriage with peace and tranquility and make it a successful one in this world and in the next world as well.inshaaAllah.

      In an abusive relation the abuser makes the one who is abused feel guilty of everything thats happening. The abuser will say something that will make the person think that all is victim’s own fault. It will take many years to understand that it is not victim’s fault and to realise that he/ she is being abused and that he/she should have escaped in the beginning of the relation itself. But by that time , he/she would have had children and so forced to stay in the relationship.

      Talk to Allah,subhanata’ala. He will be the one and only one who can help you. Try to talk to your husband ,tell him how it hurts you physically and mentally when he hits you , how shameful it is for a man to hit a weaker person. And if anyone know about this how they will look down upon him and above all remind him ALLAH,subhanata’la is watching him as he is hitting you.

      May Allah,subhnata’la give you a happy and peaceful marriage.

      • Avatar

        justmoi

        January 29, 2011 at 7:04 PM

        Jazak Allahu khairan to you both for your kind words and ameen to your duas.

  6. Avatar

    manal k

    January 28, 2011 at 11:10 PM

    Theres just not physical abuse out there.. i feel like more of us deal with emotional abuse and no one talks about it. I eventually had to leave because of emotional abuse. Its the worst since no one can see it.

    • Avatar

      M

      January 30, 2011 at 11:03 PM

      Hi! In case it helps, there’s a good book “Emotional Blackmail” by Susan Forward on dealing with people who try to control others (whether consciously, or as patterns of interaction driven by unexamined, probably ‘painful’ insecurity).
      Especially after exiting a stressful situation (but regularly/daily anytime really, perhaps best as a part of a communion with Allah), I would say it’s also important to consciously process emotions that have come up. The process of writing can be very useful in this as a safe form of raw expression and for inspiring reflection on. In the ‘Love Letter’ form & approach described by John Gray, it may also become an important healing communication to yourself or/and another person. It does this by getting through resentments etc and enabling a loving connection, and might be a good first step in the “conjuring” that Olivia asks about. (Subsequent steps being acts of kindness – “Love is a verb too; the feeling follows action”(~Covey), plus encouraging each other to also each be your own best friend – for probably Allah is the only other who can know & love you as completely as you can.)
      Salaam & Best wishes

      • Avatar

        Irene

        February 5, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        Assalamualaikum.

        I’m still struggling with the effects of emotional abuse. And you’re right, no one talks about it, which makes it that much more harder to resolve.

        Even when we talk to westerners or read their books, they have no Islamic background and therefore cannot see our perspective. They cannot distinguish between a man being controlling and a man doing his job and asking his wife to obey him.

        On the other hand, when these issues are taken to the shuyookh, they generally come to the same conclusion: the woman is not patient enough, or she is complaining that her husband is too “religious”. (I never did understand that second one, if a person is “too religious” shouldnt that draw people towards them, not away from them?)

        I am still confused as to what constitutes emotional abuse, from an Islamic persective. Can MM please write about this issue?

        Thank you

        • Avatar

          M

          February 10, 2011 at 6:38 AM

          Good request!
          For what it’s worth meanwhile, in the context of an existing marriage I might just comment: to love or lead people successfully, one needs to understand them. That necessitates listening/communication. (Particularly sharing without the corrosion of fear or anger that may cause one to ‘hide’, or intrusion of I-can-fix-that plans).
          Anyway, may Allah, subhnata’la bring sweet blessings to you & your family.

          • Avatar

            Alima

            February 12, 2011 at 5:37 PM

            Salaam,

            “I am still confused as to what constitutes emotional abuse, from an Islamic perspective. Can MM please write about this issue?”

            Hmm, that’s interesting! Brilliant question mashaAllah. I would like to read on this too inshaAllah. Also, it goes both ways for men and women – hence, how do you deal with both sides?

        • Avatar

          Yasmeen

          February 14, 2011 at 3:39 AM

          “I am still confused as to what constitutes emotional abuse, from an Islamic persective. Can MM please write about this issue?”
          ^An excellent question that I wonder about too. I’m looking forward to an article like that here!

  7. Avatar

    MaryamX

    April 2, 2011 at 5:13 AM

    I really appreciate this post as I know many people who are in abusive relationships and grew up with one as well (father abusing mother). I hope we can get more articles on MM about this on such topics as avoiding it from happening in the first place, eventhough its inevitable, there are MANY cases where the women would get signs before marriage or even hear things about their future husband and problems with anger and controlling behaviour.

    • Avatar

      MaryamX

      April 2, 2011 at 5:18 AM

      Another issue would be the role of the children in such a conflict. You obviously don’t want your parents to be divorced but at the same time cannot continue to see your mother and family in general suffer due to the abuse.

  8. Avatar

    nk

    April 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    many times in the muslim community women live in abusive homes because they are fead this idea of a good muslima who has “patience” with her husband. This patience than is equiated to standing by him as he hits her, cheats on her, degrades her, scares the kids, beats them so on and so forth.Islam came to liberate women from such opression of mind and body not to subject us to it. From all the abusers I have known( and I know quiet a few sadly). Once an abuser….always an abuser.
    Most of the time people go back to the abusive spouse as they are victamized not only by the spouse to beileve that they the victim cant do anything for themselves but even the muslim community ( the family and friend sof th evictim) push the couple to work it out. Its is so sick to watch and see the amount of sisters whose husbands have came, beat them up, cheated on them and so much more given chances again and again by their own community. The abuser has a mental control on the victim, one which is so hard to overcome.
    May Allah protect all our sisters in such situations.

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#Life

How Do Muslims Plan for Disability

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Families with children with disability have an extraordinary set of challenges and blessings.  Disability (or special needs) is a broad term.

Many disabilities will prevent what we often think of as “normal.”  It may hinder or prevent educational opportunities, and employment. Many people with “special needs” can get educated, get married and live long and productive lives.  The problem for many parents of younger children with special needs is that they typically have no certainty about their children’s future needs. Even if the situation looks dire, it may not stay that way.  

How do parents plan for a world where they may not be around to see how things will end up for their special needs children?  What can they do to help their children in a way that does not violate Islamic Inheritance rules?

Certain types of disability, especially the loss of executive decision-making ability, could also happen well into adulthood.  This can be a threat to a family’s wealth and be the cause of internal conflicts. This is the kind of thing every adult needs to think about before it happens.  

The Problem

The issues are not just that parents believe their special needs child will need more inheritance than other children. Muslim parents usually don’t think that. Some parents don’t want their special needs child to get any inheritance at all.  Not because of any ill-will against their special needs child; just the opposite, but because they are afraid inheritance will result in sabotaging their child’s needs-based government benefits.    

Many, perhaps most special needs children do not have any use for needs-based benefits (benefits for the poor).  But many do, or many parents might figure that it is a distinct possibility. This article is a brief explanation of some of the options available for parents of special needs children.  It won’t go over every option, but rather those that are usually incorporated as part of any Islamic Estate Planning.

Please Stand By

Example:  Salma has three daughters and two sons.  One of her children, Khalida, 3, has Down Syndrome.  At this point, Salma knows that raising Khalida is going to be an immense challenge for herself, her husband Rashid and all the older siblings.  What she does not know, however, is what specific care Khalida is going to need through her life or how her disability will continue to be relevant. She does not know a lot about Khalida’s future marriage prospects, ability to be employed and be independent, though obviously like any parent she has nothing but positive hopes for her child’s life.   

In the event of her death, Salma wants to make sure her daughter gets her Islamic right to inheritance.  However, if Khalida needs public benefits, Salma does not want her daughter disqualified because she has her own money.

Her solution is something called a “stand-by special needs trust.” This type of trust is done in conjunction with an Islamic Inheritance Plan and is typically part of a living trust, though it could also be a trust drafted into the last will.  I will describe more about what a special needs trust is below. For Salma, she is the Trustee of her trust. After she dies, she names her husband (or someone else) the successor Trustee. The trust is drafted to prevent it from becoming an “available resource” used to determine eligibility for public benefits such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid and other benefits that go with that.

If it turns out that Salma passes away when Khalida is 5, and her assets are held in trust for her until she is 18 and her Trustee determines she does not need a special needs trust, she will get her inheritance precisely like everyone else based on their Islamic right.  If she does need benefits, the Trustee will only make distributions to Khalida that would not harm her eligibility.

This way, there is no need to deny Khalida her inheritance because of her disability, and she is also making sure giving her daughter inheritance would not harm her daughter’s healthcare or other necessary support.  

Munir Vohra is a special needs advocate and an athlete

The Shape of Special Needs Trusts

A stand-alone Special needs trusts, which is sometimes called a “supplemental needs trust” the kind without the “stand-by” variation I described above, are a standard device for families that have children with special needs. A trust is a property ownership device. A Grantor gives the property to a Trustee, who manages the property for the benefit of a beneficiary. In a revocable living trust, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary are typically the same person.  

When the trust is irrevocable, the Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary may all be different people. In a special needs trust, the person with a disability is the beneficiary. Sometimes, the person with a disability is also the Grantor, the person who created the trust.  This might happen if there is a settlement from a lawsuit for example and the person with special needs wants it to be paid to the trust.  

In many if not most cases, the goal may not be to protect the beneficiary’s ability to get public benefits at all. Many people with a disability don’t get special government benefits.  But they do want to protect the beneficiaries from having to manage the assets. Some people are just more susceptible to abuse.

The structure of the arrangement typically reflects the complexity of the family, the desire of siblings and extended family to continue to be involved in the care and attending to the needs of the person with a disability, even if they are not the person directly writing checks.   

Example: Care for Zayna

Example: Zayna is a 24-year-old woman with limited ability to communicate, take care of her needs and requires 24-hour care.  Zayna has three healthy siblings, many aunts, uncles, and cousins. Her father, Elias, earns about $70,000 per year and is divorced. Zayna’s mother Sameena cannot contribute, as she is on social security disability. However, Zayna’s adult brother and sisters, brother in laws, sister in law and several aunts, uncles want to help Zayna meet her needs E.lyas creates a third party special needs trust that would ensure Zayna has what she needs in the years to come.

Zayna receives need-based public benefits that are vital to her in living with her various disabilities and her struggle to gain increasing independence, knowledge and dignity.  So the trust needs to be set up and professionally administered to make sure that when Zayna gets any benefit from her trust, it does not end up disqualifying her ability to get any needs-based benefit.  

Contributions to the special needs trust will not go against Islamic Inheritance rules unless made after the death of the donor.

If Zayna dies, her assets from the special needs trust will be distributed based on the Islamic rules of inheritance as it applies to her.

When disability planning is not about Public Benefits

Perhaps most families with special needs children do not use any needs-based public assistance.  They are still concerned about special needs and planning for it.

Example:  Khadija, 16, is on the autism spectrum. For those familiar with the autism spectrum, that could mean a lot of things.  For her parents, Sarah and Yacoob, other than certain habits that are harmless and easy to get used to, it means Khadija is very trusting of people. Otherwise, she does well in school, and her parents don’t think she needs way more help than her siblings and she has just as good a chance of leading a healthy and productive life as any 16-year-old girl.  

The downside of being too trusting is that the outside world can exploit her.  If she ends up getting inheritance or gifts, she may lose it. The parents decide that when she gets her inheritance, it will be in a trust that would continue through her life.  There will be a trustee who will make sure she has what she needs from her trust, but that nobody can exploit her.

In some ways, what Khadija’s parents Sarah and Yacoob are doing is not so different from what parents might do if they have a child with a substance abuse problem.  They want to give their child her rights, but they don’t want to allow for exploitation and abuse.

Considering your own needs

There are many people who are easy marks for scammers, yet you would be unlikely to know this unless you are either a close friend or family member, or a scammer yourself.  While this often happens to the elderly, it can happen at just about any age. Everyone should consider developing an “incapacity plan” to preserve their wealth even if they lose their executive decision-making ability.   

There is this process in state courts known as “conservatorship.” Indeed, entire courtrooms dedicate themselves to conservatorships and other mental health-related issues.  It is a legal process that causes an individual to lose their financial or personal freedom because a court has essentially declared them not competent to handle their affairs. Conservatorships are a public process.  They can cause a lot of pain embarrassment and internal family strife.

One of the benefits of a well-drafted living trust is to protect privacy and dignity during difficult times.

Example: Haris Investing in Cambodian Rice Farms

Haris, 63, was eating lunch at a diner.  In the waiting area, he became fast friends with Mellissa; a thirty-something woman who was interested in talking about Haris’s grandchildren.  The conversation then turned Melissa and her desire to start a business selling long distance calling cards. Haris was fascinated by this and thought it made good business sense. Haris gave Mellissa $20,000.00. The two exchanged numbers. The next day, Mellissa’s number was disconnected.

Haris’s wife, Julie became alarmed by this.  It was out of character for her husband to just fork over $20,000 to anyone on the spur of the moment.  What was worse is that the business failed immediately.  

Three months later,  Haris meets Mellissa at the diner again.  She then convinces Haris to invest $50,000 in a Cambodian rice farm, which he does right away.   His wife Julie was pretty upset.

How living trusts helps

As it happened though, Haris, a few years before, created a living trust.  It has a provision that includes incapacity planning. There are two essential parts to this:  The first is a system to decide if someone has lost their executive decision-making ability. The second is to have a successor Trustee to look over the estate when the individual has lost this capacity.  This question is about Haris’s fundamental freedom: his ability to spend his own money.

If you asked Haris, he would say nothing is wrong with him.  He looks and sounds excellent. Tells the best dad jokes. He goes to the gym five times a week and can probably beat you at arm wrestling. Haris made some financial mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes.

Julie, and his adult children Haroon, Kulsum, Abdullah, and Rasheeda are not so sure it’s just a mistake.  The living trust created a “disability panel.” This panel gets to vote, privately, in if Haris should continue to act as Trustee of his own money.  If they vote that he should not manage his own money, his wife does it for him.

The family has a way to decide an important and sensitive issue while maintaining Haris’ dignity, privacy and wealth.   Haris’s friends don’t know anything about long distance calling cards or a Cambodian rice farm; they don’t know he lost his ability to act as Trustee of his trust.  Indeed the rest of the world is oblivious to all of this.

Planning for everyone

Islamic inheritance is fard and every Muslim should endeavor to incorporate it into their lives.  As it happens it is an obligation Muslims, at least those in the United States, routinely ignore or deal with inadequately.  However, there is more to planning than just what shares go to whom after death. Every family needs to create a system. There may or may not be problems with children or even with yourself (other than death, which will happen), but you should do whatever you can to protect your family’s wealth and dignity while also fulfilling your obligations to both yourself and your family.

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Cleaning Out Our Own Closets This Ramadan: Bigotry

Why Eliminating Hate Begins with Us

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Before Muslims take a stand against xenophobia in the U.S., we really need to eradicate it from our own community.

There. I said it.

There is no nice way to put it. Muslims can be very intolerant of those outside their circles, particularly our Latino neighbors. How do I know? I am a Latina who came into Islam almost two decades ago, and I have experienced my fair share of stereotypes, prejudice, and just outright ignorance coming from my very own Muslim brethren.

And I am not alone.

My own family and Latino Muslim friends have also dealt with their daily doses of bigotry. Most of the time, it is not ill-intentioned, however, the fact that our community is so out of touch with Latin Americans says a lot about why we are often at the receiving end of discrimination and hate.

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (The Qur’an, 13:11)

Recently, Fox News came under fire for airing a graphic that stated, “Trump cuts aid to 3 Mexican countries,” on their show, “Fox and Friends Weekend.” The network apologized for the embarrassing error, but not before criticism of their geographical mishap went viral on social media. The reactions were of disbelief, humor, and repugnance for the controversial news channel that has become the archenemy of everything Islamic. People flooded the internet with memes, tweets, and comments regarding the ridiculous headline, Muslims included. American Muslim leaders quickly released statements condemning the lack of knowledge about the difference between Mexico and the nations of Central and South America.

Ironically, however, just about two months ago, my eldest son wrote an essay about the bullying he experienced in an Islamic school, which included insults about him being Mexican and “eating tacos” even though he is half Ecuadorian (South America) and Puerto Rican (Caribbean), not Mexican. I include the regions in parentheses because, in fact, many Muslims are just as geographically-challenged as the staff at Fox News. When a group of Hispanic workers came to replace the windows at his former school, my son approached them and spoke to them in Spanish as a means of dawah – teaching them that there are Latin American and Spanish-speaking Muslims. His classmates immediately taunted him saying that the laborers were “his cousins.” Although my son tried countless times to explain to his peers the difference between his origins and Mexico and defended both, they continued to mock Latinos.

On another occasion, a local masjid invited a famous Imam from the Midwest to speak about a topic. My family and I attended the event because we were fans of the shaykh and admired his work. A few minutes into his talk, he made a derogatory remark about Mexicans, and then added with a smile, “I hope there aren’t any Mexicans in the room!” A gentleman from the community stood up behind my husband, who is Ecuadorian, and pointed at him saying, “We have one right here!” Some people chuckled as his face turned red. The shaykh apologized for his comment and quickly moved on. We looked at each other and rolled our eyes. This was nothing new.

Imam Mohamed Alhayek (Jordanian Palestinian) and Imam Yusuf Rios (Puerto Rican) share an intimate moment during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day. Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

Once, I visited a Pakistani sister, and as I enjoyed a cup of warm chai on her patio, she turned to me earnestly and said, “You and (another Latina Muslim) are the only educated Hispanics I know.” She then asked me why Latinos did not have “goals and ambitions” because supposedly, all the Hispanic students in her daughters’ school only aspired to work in their parents’ businesses as laborers. She went on to tell me about her Hispanic maid’s broken family and how unfortunate it was that they had no guidance or moral values. I was shocked by her assumptions, but I realized that this was the sentiment of a lot of Muslims who simply do not know a thing about our culture or have not taken the time to really get to know us.

When I accepted Islam back in 2000, I never expected to hear some of the narrow-minded comments and questions I received from those people who had become my brothers and sisters in faith. After all, I came to Islam through the help of an Egyptian family, I declared the Shahada for the first time in the presence of people from Pakistan, and I was embraced in the masjid by worshippers from places like Somalia, Sudan, Palestine, India, Turkey, and Afghanistan. A white American convert gifted me with my first Ramadan guide and an Indian sister supported me during my first fast. I expected to be treated equally by everyone because Islam was for everyone and Muslims have been hearing this their whole lives and they preach it incessantly. I do the same now. As a Muslim Latina, I tell my people that Islam is open to all and that racism, colorism, classism, and xenophobia have no place in Islam.

Nevertheless, it did not take long for me to hear some very ugly things from my new multi-cultural community. I was questioned about whether I was a virgin or not by well-meaning sisters who wanted to find me a Muslim husband. My faith was scrutinized when my friend’s family introduced me to an imam who doubted I had converted on my own, without the persuasion of a Muslim boyfriend or husband. I was pressured about changing my name because it was not “Islamic” enough. I was lectured about things that I had already learned because foreign-born Muslims assumed I had no knowledge. I was even told I could not be a Muslim because I was Puerto Rican; that I was too “out there,” too loud, or that my people were not morally upright.

I know about good practicing Muslim men who have been turned down for marriage because they are Hispanic. On the other hand, I have seen sisters taken for marriage by immigrant Muslims to achieve citizenship status and later abandoned, despite having children. I have been approached by Muslim men searching for their “J-Lo,” who want to marry a “hot” Latina because of the disgusting exploitation of Latina women they have been exposed to from television, movies, and music videos. I have made the mistake of introducing this type of person to one of my sisters and witnessed their disappointment because she did not fit the image of the fantasy girl they expected. I have felt the heartbreak of my sister who was turned down for not living up to those unrealistic expectations, and who continues to wait for a Muslim man who will honor her as she deserves. An older “aunty” once said to my face that she would never let her children marry a Latino/a.

I met a brother named José who was told that he had to change his un-Islamic Spanish name so that he would be better received in the Muslim community, even though his name, when translated to Arabic, is Yusuf! I have been asked if I know any Hispanic who could work at a Muslim’s store for less than minimum wage 12 hours a day or a “Spanish lady” who can clean a Muslim’s house for cheap. I have spoken to Latino men and women who work at masajid doing landscaping or janitorial services who have never heard anything about Islam. When I approached the Muslim groundskeeper at one of these mosques with Spanish literature to give them, he looked at me bewildered and said, “Oh, they are just contractors,” as if they did not deserve to learn about our faith! I have heard that the child of a Latina convert was expelled and banned from returning to an Islamic school for making a mistake, once. I have been told about fellow Hispanics who dislike going to the masjid because they feel rejected and, worse of all, some of them have even left Islam altogether.

Latina Muslims share a laugh during the 16th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day.
Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

A few weeks ago, news was released about the sentencing of Darwin Martinez Torres, who viciously raped and murdered Northern Virginia teen, Nabra Hassanen during Ramadan in June 2017. The story made national headlines and left her family and the entire Muslim community devastated. Although the sentence of eight life terms in prison for the killer provided some closure to the public, the senseless and heinous act still leaves sentiments of anger and frustration in the hearts of those who loved Nabra Hassanen. Muslims began sharing the news on social media and soon, remarks about the murderer’s Central American origin flooded the comments sections. One said, “An illegal immigrant from El Salvador will now spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison where all his needs will be met, and his rights will be protected… When we attack efforts to stop illegal immigration and to deal with the criminals coming across the border every day, remember Sr. Nabra… we should all be united in supporting common-sense measures to ensure that our sisters do not walk in fear of attacks. (And no, this is not an ‘isolated case’…).”

Although I was just as relieved about receiving the news that there was finally justice for our young martyred sister, I was saddened to see that the anti-Hispanic immigrant sentiment within our own community was exposed: To assume that Latino immigrants are “criminals coming across the border every day” is to echo the very words that came from current US President Donald Trump’s mouth about immigrants prior to his election to the presidency. To blame all Latinos for a crime committed against one and claim it is not an “isolated case” is to do the same thing that Fox News and anti-Muslim bigots do when they blame all Muslims for a terror attack.

Why are we guilty of the same behavior that we loathe?

I do not like to air out our dirty laundry. I have always felt that it is counterproductive for our collective dawah efforts. It is embarrassing and shameful that we, who claim to be so tolerant and peaceful, still suffer from the very attitudes for which we blame others. As I write this piece, I have been sharing my thoughts with my close friend, a Pakistani-American, who agreed with me and said, “Just like a recovering alcoholic, our first step is to admit there is a problem.” We cannot demand our civil rights and expect to be treated with dignity while we mistreat another minority group, and this includes Latinos and also other indigenous Muslims like Black Americans and Native Americans. I say this, not just for converts, but for my loud and proud, half Puerto Rican and half Ecuadorian children and nephews and others like them who were born Muslims: we need a community that welcomes all of us.

Latinos and Muslims share countless cultural similarities. Our paths are the same. Our history is intertwined, whether we know it or not; and if you don’t know it, then it is time you do your research. How can we visit Islamic Spain and North Africa and marvel at its magnificence, and travel to the Caribbean for vacation and notice the Andalusian architecture present in the colonial era structures, yet choose to ignore our shared past? How can you be proud of Mansa Musa, and not know that it is said his brother sailed with other Malians to the Americas prior to Columbus, making contact with the indigenous people of South America (even before it was “America”)? How can you turn your back on people from the countries which sheltered thousands of Muslim immigrants from places like Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Turkey after the collapse of the Uthmani Empire, many of which carry that blood in their veins?

Latino Muslim panelists during “Hispanic Muslim Day” at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center, Union City, NJ Photo/Caption by Melissa Barreto — at North Hudson Islamic Educational Center (NHIEC).

We need to do a better job of reaching out and getting to know our neighbors. In recent years, the Muslim ban has brought Latinos and Muslims together in solidarity to oppose discriminatory immigration laws. The time is now to establish lasting partnerships.

Use this Ramadan to reach out to the Latino community; host a Spanish open house or an interfaith/intercultural community iftar. Reach out to Latino Muslims in your area for support, or to organizations like ICNA’s WhyIslam (Por qué Islam) for Spanish materials. A language barrier is not an issue when there are plenty of resources available in the Spanish language, and we have the universal language that has been declared a charity by our Prophet, Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), and that is a welcoming smile.

There is no excuse.

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How to Teach Your Kids About Easter

Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Zeba Khan

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Don’t tell my dad this, but growing up, I was sure I wanted to be a Christian. It had nothing to do with the theology though, it was – really and truly – all about the chocolate.

Don’t get me wrong, I did not grow up in any sort of conservative, chocolate-deprived bubble. My mother was – and still is – a Christian. My father was – and still is – Muslim, and our home was a place where two faiths co-existed in unapologetic splendor.

My mother put up her Christmas tree every year.  We children, though Muslim, received Easter baskets every year. The only reason why I wished I was Christian too, even though I had no less chocolate in my life than other children my age, was because of the confusing guilt that I felt around holiday time.

I knew that the holidays were my mother’s, and we participated to honor and respect her, not to honor and respect what she celebrated. As a child though, I really didn’t understand why we couldn’t celebrate them too, even if it was just for the chocolate.

As an adult I’ve learned that I’m not alone in this conflicted enthusiasm for the holidays of others. Really, who doesn’t like treats and parties and any excuse to celebrate? As a parent though, I’ve decided that the best policy to use with my children is respectful honesty about where we stand with regard to other religions.

That’s why when my children asked me about Easter, this is what I told them:

  1. The holidays of every religion are the right of the people who follow them. They are as precious to them as Eid and Ramadan are to us.
  2. Part of being a good Muslim is protecting the rights of everyone around us, no matter what their religion is. There is nothing wrong with non-Muslims celebrating their religious non-Muslim holidays.
  3. We don’t need to pretend they’re not happening. Respectful recognition of the rights of others is part of our religion and our history. We don’t have to accept what other people celebrate in order to be respectful of their celebrations.
  4. The problem with Muslims celebrating non-Muslim religious holidays is that we simply don’t believe them to be true.

So when it comes to Easter specifically, we break it down to its smaller elements.

There is nothing wrong with chocolate. There is nothing wrong with eggs. There is nothing wrong with rabbits, and no, they don’t lay eggs.

There is nothing wrong with Easter, but we do not celebrate it because:

Easter is a celebration based on the idea the Prophet Isa 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) was Allah’s son, who Allah allowed to be killed for our sins. Easter is a celebration of him coming back to life again.

Depending on how old your child is, you may need to break it down further.

Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) Created the sun, Allah is not a person whose eyes can’t even look directly at the sun. Allah Created space, Allah is not a person who can’t survive in space. Allah Created fire, Allah is not a person who cannot even touch fire. Allah is not a person, He does not have children as people do. Prophet Jesus [alayis] was a messenger of Allah, not a child of Allah.

Allah is also the Most-Merciful, Most-Forgiving, and All-Powerful. When we make mistakes by ourselves, we say sorry to Allah and try our best to do better. If we make mistakes all together, we do not take the best-behaved person from among us and then punish him or her in our place.

Allah is Justice Himself. He is The Kindest, Most Merciful, Most Forgiving Being in the entire universe. He always was, and always will be capable of forgiving us. No one needed to die in order for Allah to forgive anyone.

If your teacher failed the best student in the class so that the rest of the students could pass, that would not be fair, even if that student had offered that. When people say that Allah sacrificed his own son so that we could be forgiven, they are accusing Allah of really unfair things, even if they seem to think it’s a good thing.

Even if they’re celebrating it with chocolate.

We simply do not believe what is celebrated on Easter. That is why we do not celebrate Easter.

So what do we believe?

Walk your child through Surah Ikhlas, there are four lines and you can use four of their fingers.

  1. Allah is One.
  2. Allah doesn’t need anything from anyone.
  3. He was not born, and nor was anyone born of Him. Allah is no one’s child, and no one is Allah’s child
  4. There is nothing like Allah in the universe

Focus on what we know about Allah, and then move on to other truths as well.

  1. Christians should absolutely celebrate Christian holidays. We are happy for them.
  2. We do not celebrate Christian holidays, because we do not accept what they’re celebrating.
  3. We are very happy for our neighbors and hope they have a nice time.

When your child asks you about things like Christmas, Easter, Valentines, and Halloween, they’re not asking you to change religions. They’re asking you for the chance to participate in the joy of treats, decorations, parties, and doing things with their peers.

You can provide them these things when you up your halal holiday game. Make Ramadan in your home a whole month of lights, people, and happy prayer. Make every Friday special. Make Eid amazing – buy gifts, give charity, decorate every decorat-able surface if you need to – because our children have no cause to feel deprived by being Muslim.

If your holidays tend to be boring, that’s a cultural limitation, not a religious one. And if you feel like it’s not fair because other religions just have more holidays than we do, remember this:

  • Your child starting the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child finishing the Quran can be a celebration
  • Your child’s first fast can be a celebration
  • Your child wearing hijab can be a celebration
  • Your child starting to pray salah can be a celebration
  • Your children can sleep over for supervised qiyaam nights
  • You can celebrate whatever you want, whenever you want, in ways that are fun and halal and pleasing to Allah.

We have a set number of religious celebrations, but there is no limit on how many personal celebrations we choose to have in our lives and families. Every cause we have for gratitude can be an opportunity to see family, eat together, dress up, and hang shiny things from other things, and I’m not talking about throwing money at the problem – I’m talking about making the effort for its solution.

It is easy to celebrate something when your friends, neighbors, and local grocery stores are doing it too. That’s probably why people of many religions – and even no religion – celebrate holidays they don’t believe in. That’s not actually an excuse for it though, and as parents, it’s our responsibility to set the right example for our children.

Making and upholding our own standards is how we live, not only in terms of our holidays, but in how we eat, what we wear, and the way we swim upstream for the sake of Allah.  We don’t go with the flow, and teaching our children not to celebrate the religious holidays of other religions just to fit in is only one part of the lesson.

The other part is to extend the right to religious freedom – and religious celebration – to Muslims too. When you teach your children that everyone has a right to their religious holidays, include Muslims too. When you make a big deal out of Ramadan include your non-Muslim friends and neighbors too, not just because it’s good dawah, but because being able to share your joy with others helps make it feel more mainstream.

Your Muslim children can give their non-Muslim friends Eid gifts. You can take Eid cookies to your non-Muslim office, make Ramadan jars. You can have Iftar parties for people who don’t fast.   Decorate your house for Ramadan, and send holiday cards out on your holidays.

You can enjoy the elements of celebration that are common to us all without compromising on your aqeedah, and by doing so, you can teach your children that they don’t have to hide their religious holidays from the people who don’t celebrate them.  No one has to. And you can teach your children to respect the religions of others, even while disagreeing with them.

Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are bound by a common thread, and there is much we come together on. Where the threads separate though, is still a cause for celebration. Religious tolerance is part of our faith, and recognizing the rights of others to celebrate – or abstain from celebration – is how we celebrate our differences.

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