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Mama can I get Unlimited Internet on my iPad and other Internet Safety Issues

The fact is that 93 percent of kids are online.

Even if parents limit or ban internet access, kids have access at school, through a friend’s smart phone, libraries, and schools.

The internet is a tool that our children need to use and master with wisdom dispensed by parents. We need tech-savvy youth who will grow up to be leaders of the Muslim community.

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Many schools use a websites such as EdModo to connect students and teachers. My friend Reem is the vice principal of an Islamic School. She says that many teachers assign work from school that children need to research online.  Some of the best homeschooling resources are online.

Far too many parents do not allow their children monitored access to the internet, leading to two scenarios. Their children end up lying and using it behind their back; or are so sheltered that they do not know how to conduct themselves online when they finally do get access.

On the other hand,  more often then not, there are parents who freely give unmonitored access.

It is very easy to walk into the Big Box store and order the shiny device that your children have been haranguing you for so long. ‘Baba, Google Glass is here and everyone at Sunday school is getting one” and sure enough many of us will rush out to buy it to keep up.

But then what?

Far too many parents do not  know how to use the devices that they gift to their children. There are also other issues that caretakers raising children in today’s world need to think about.

  • How does a parent know if their child is engaging in inappropriate Internet activities?
  • How would a parent know if their child is cyber bullied if he does not tell them?

These are conversations that we need to be having with our circle of friends when we meet over tea, dinner or halaqas.

According to Common Sense Media, “Young teens don’t yet have an “off” switch in their brains. That means that they often act impulsively. This lack of impulse control combined with online anonymity could lead toward dangerous behaviors: cyber bullying, inappropriate photo or video uploads, illegal downloads, meeting strangers — even cheating. Because socializing is so important to young people, online interactions can become pretty intense – whether they’re playing games, chatting with friends, or sharing work.”

Using open communication and thoughtful intervention, Muslim parents can help their wired offspring learn how to maneuver electronic gadgets and the world wide web. Here are some tips on how to give children monitored access to the Internet.

Spend time with your children online.

Ask to see their Facebook page, their Instagrams, Tumblr, We Heart It and Twitter feed. The point isn’t the site but keeping the lines open so your child can tell you if they have one. It may seem like a foreign territory, but it is imperative that parents talk to their children about social media. At this stage, it is not our job to try to protect them by isolating them. It is our job to teach them how to deal with information and with people.

“If you dont have an instagram you are considered a loser” 12 yr old.

Parenting experts do not recommend Facebook or Twitter for middle schoolers, no matter what they tell you. Once the child has an email account, they can open an account on any social media site they want. Always have access to your child’s email account. If they change the password, confiscate the device. I don’t check every email my daughter gets but she knows that I can drop in and check her account randomly whenever I want. And I do.

Younger children often play on websites such as Club Penguin, Poptropica, Fantage, Movie Star Planet, Moshi Monsters and new ones pop up every day. Most if these sites teach extreme consumerism as children ‘play’ to accumulate points or currency and use it to ‘buy’ stuff: furniture, VIP passes, etc.; urging your child to become ‘Rich and Famous.’ As responsible parents,we need to prevent children from becoming mindless consumers.

“It’s unfair that V.I.P. members get so much stuff”- 7 yr old

If you do allow your child to visit these sites, then watch them while they play. Teach them not to talk to or chat with random strangers. That person with named Girlie45 could, possibly, be a middle aged predator.

Teach them that everything that they put online is there forever.  Anyone can cut, copy and paste pictures and text.

 

Common Sense Online Safety

 

Install monitoring software.

You may want to use safe-search settings or filtering software for younger kids. McAfee and other virus protection program have built-in software. These notify the parent of every site that a child visits. Tell children upfront that their online activity is monitored. Remind them that Allah is watching constantly and the angels are writing everything down. Parents can always check browser histories to see where your kids have been. This may seem contrary to the “La tajassusu, don’t spy” hadith, but just as watching your children’ behavior  offline does not fall into this category, neither does the online world.

 

Place the family computer in a public place.

Don’t give children laptops that they retreat with into their rooms.  If they have access to a laptop then ask them to use it around the family. Add passwords to all adult computers and  set your screen to ask for the password after being idle for a few minutes.

We learned this the hard way when one of the adult laptops was left accessible and one of our kids googled an innocent term. It took one sec but what she saw was enough to send her hiding under bed. It was traumatizing but it could have been much worse.

In figuring out how she got there we found out that websites contain a list of index words Internet search engines use these index words to provide surfers with related sites. Many children’s Internet sites include “toys,” “dollhouse,” “girls,” “pets,” “Beanie Babies,” etc. Teen sites might include index words such as “NBA,” “sports,” “boys,” “cars,” etc. Porn sites use these innocent index words to lure the young and that is how searching the Internet using these words can take children to porn sites. Read more about this here. 67% children have been exposed to some version of adult websites.

This forced us to use precautions on our computers but most importantly we realized that we would have to talk to our children (continually) so they only open approved sites and even if they do open a page like that by mistake they should have the wherewithal to get out of there as fast as possible.

Use the “Walk By” Rule: This is a Dr. Borba favorite of mine.

Emphasize that if, at any time, you walk by and see your child covering the screen, switching screens, closing programs, quickly turning off the computer, or not adhering to your family rules, pull the plug. End of argument.

Help kids think critically about what they find online.

Young people need to know not everything they see is true, everything they read is not true. They need to have their Muslim filters on, and these need to be instilled by the parents. As they grow and start forming their own opinions, they may rely on the internet to research viewpoints and these may differ from yours. This means that you need to be available to talk to them about anything that they read or see on the internet about Islam, current events, politics etc.

Set rules about time and  place.

Have children turn in the gadgets at night. Imam Tahir Anwar recommends that all devices should be turned in to parents at night for charging, including laptops. Set a time by which all homework and research should be complete. This will teach them responsibility and limit procrastination.  Don’t let them Instant Message (IM) while doing homework. Restrict time and sites for online gaming. In our home, WiFi switches off to select devices after 8 p.m., it is easy to set this up through your router. Log into your router, utilizing parental controls shut off access to a particular device according to your personal schedule.

WiFi access should be monitored

And limited on iPods, smartphones, tablets. A point to remember about this is that even if you set limits on your WiFi at home kids can easily get WiFi anywhere it is available.  Don’t get them an unlimited internet service, they don’t need it.

Discourage taking their devices

When you are visiting others. I have seen many gatherings where there are 15 kids/youth in a room and all of them are on their own device. No one talks to each other.

 

 

Talk, talk, talk. Start a discussion with your child

  • What are your favorite things to do online?
  • What is personal information? Why should you keep it private?
  • What could you do to be safer online?
  • What would you do if anyone online asked to meet you face-to-face?
  • Besides me, who do you feel that you can talk to if you are in a scary or uncomfortable situation?

 

deco-line-2

Internet safety basics to teach your child.

  • Never share names, schools, ages, phone numbers, or addresses.
  • Never open an email from a stranger – it may contain viruses that can harm a computer.
  • Never send pictures to strangers or view pictures that strangers send to them.
  • Keep passwords private (except to parents).
  • Tell a trusted adult if something mean or creepy happens on the Internet.

Some tips adapted from parenting expert, Dr. Michele Borba’s articles on internet safety. What are your best internet safety tips?

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Hena Zuberi is the Editor in Chief of Muslimmatters.org. She leads the DC office of the human rights organization, Justice For All, focusing on stopping the genocide of the Rohingya under Burma Task Force, advocacy for the Uighur people with the Save Uighur Campaign and Free Kashmir Action. She was a Staff Reporter at the Muslim Link newspaper which serves the DC Metro. Hena has worked as a television news reporter and producer for CNBC Asia and World Television News. Active in her SoCal community, Hena served as the Youth Director for the Unity Center. Using her experience with Youth, she conducts Growing Up With God workshops. hena.z@muslimmatters.org Follow her on Twitter @henazuberi.

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Muslimah

    April 17, 2013 at 1:33 AM

    Assalamu alaikum,

    As a preteen who used the Internet inappropriately behind my parents backs and lived to regret it almost more than anything else in my life, I very much advocate the above advice. ESPECIALLY the advice about kids hiding computer screens.

    However, you also need open dialogue with your children. And by this I don’t mean just lecturing them, but having actual conversations. What caused me to go behind their backs was because I felt that the rules were too unfair and that my mother wasn’t open to any negotiation.

    For example, when I was curious as to the meaning of homosexuality and other terms, I didn’t ask my parents, they would have flipped! I looked it up in the dictionary.

    As your children get older (no longer preteen), afford them more trust as they earn it. My parents no longer have access to my email, for example, but they trust me to use it well, and that if they ever flipped through my history there would be nothing inappropriate. Don’t make them feel that you don’t trust them at all.

    There is no need of Facebook in middle school whatsoever – I use it to keep in contact with my friends and my peers now that I’m older, but I still have family members online who can see my activity.

    Also, finally, perhaps we need to realize that there comes a point in time when teenagers need a little bit of privacy. I know that I have often watched videos on marriage, gender relations, teenage problems etc, but even though there is nothing wrong with seeing these issues discussed, some parents will frown upon it and make me feel that I need to hide it as though I am doing something wrong.

    • Avatar

      Muslimah

      April 17, 2013 at 1:35 AM

      Also, “help kids think critically about what they read online” is BRILLIANT advice. Yes, your kids will grow up and be exposed to blogs and viewpoints from all over the place – instead of banning them from everything, be available to discuss and explain!

  2. Avatar

    Moe

    April 17, 2013 at 2:28 AM

    So you want your computer to be a Big Brother scenario? Sound advice for preteens but as you get older you need privacy. Trust me as someone who lived in a country where the government was Big Brother kids will always know how to hide their online activity whether through proxies or other means. The internet will be the place where their insular world that you may have meticulously crafted will die and there is nothing you can do about that if they are intelligent and questioning. The problem is the internet is full of hyperbole and exaggeration and an implicit pressure to conform. They will be convinced by arguments or be blown away by realties they don’t understand and if you are a technologically impaired parent or a close-minded fool your kid will no longer consult you at all knowing your reaction.
    Too bad thinking critically is not a skill we encourage because it can ‘lead us astray’

    The internet will be the place where yur kids encounter Islamophobia, they will encounter sites and people dedicated at dismantling the Islamic Faith and Religion in general with arguments you never heard in Sunday School. If the kid has a distaste for religion being all about rules listening to Richard Dawkins or Sam Harris will be a tune to their ears as the never understood Islam to begin with. That is more an issue to older teenagers who are forming their own opinions.

    • Avatar

      broAhmed

      April 20, 2013 at 8:20 AM

      I think the point here is to build healthy habits while the children are young. Giving completely unlimited and unrestricted internet access to a young child is asking for trouble. You can still teach a child to think critically while reducing their exposure to things like pornography.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 2:41 PM

      JazakAllah Khayr for sharing your thoughts, Moe. I agree as they grow older that teens need some privacy but not complete privacy. The amount of responsibility and maturity your teen displays should directly correlate with the amount of privacy given to them. If your child doesn’t normally lie, cheat, break rules then privacy can be a reward. But if you suspect something, find ‘evidence’ then you have to step in and snoop. I have no qualms saying this. Some stuff that I have seen happening with youth that I have worked with makes me wonder where are the parents? This line of “I have aright to my privacy & how could you betray my privacy” is bogus, privacy is not a right. They may be hurt but if you give them a heads up and let them know that some thing are just not acceptable then the onus is on them to earn their privacy with good behavior.

      Parents also need to know that good behavior doesn’t mean that your child will be an exact replica of you; they will explore, experiment and that is not the end of the world. Doesn’t mean that you are a horrible parent. It just means that your child is developing into te person he or she was mean to be and you are a guide for their soul, not the owner of it.

      Another tip: Also most teens who aren’t up to anything bad are just afraid of embarrassment in front of friends so commenting on every post they make, or picture they post will just annoy them. Don’t do that.

      Critical thinking is a gift from Allah otherwise we all be chattel not insaan (humans). If parent believe that Islam is the haq (truth) then they should not be threatened by the discourses online they should discuss these ideas with their kids. Why do certain people ave different beliefs, why do the anti- Muslim bigots think this way. Good idea for a follow up post.

  3. Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    April 17, 2013 at 3:45 AM

    JazakAllahu Khairin Hena. I am not at the stage where I need to worry about my kids and online safety but in a few years these articles of yours will be essential guides InshaaAllah.

    -Aly

  4. Avatar

    Janet Dubac

    April 17, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Thank you so much for this brilliant post Hena! It’s an excellent read. I am also having problems with monitoring my child’s internet usage and I’am almost short of ideas. This post taught me a lot of ways and I am learning a lot from it. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 2:50 PM

      Thank you for stopping by and commenting Janet. Hoped over to your site, we would love to do some joint posts on faith in the public arena. Let me know.

  5. Avatar

    Umm hadi

    April 17, 2013 at 10:23 AM

    Jazak Allahu Khair…

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 2:51 PM

      Waiyyaki I hope you share it with as many people as you can.

  6. Avatar

    carl_dodge

    April 17, 2013 at 7:57 PM

    The featured image has been changed upon the request from a reader

    • Avatar

      O H

      April 19, 2013 at 11:06 PM

      Checking the permissibility of such images. Renowned Shaykh Salih al Munajjid of Saudi Arabia has this to say in his site:

      http://islamqa.info/en/ref/165186

      • Avatar

        O H

        April 19, 2013 at 11:07 PM

        Check if the change is sufficient. Sorry to be annoying!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      JazakAllah Khayr for taking care of that Carl.

  7. Avatar

    umahmed

    April 18, 2013 at 7:11 PM

    as-salamu ‘alaikum,

    glade the image was changed. i support whoever requested the change. just because “everybody is doing it” doesnt mean Mmatters should jump the bandwagon and put close up shots of sisters on the website. in the past when i requested such for other articles it was not done, so i gave up asking. but glad you all are doing the right thing now :)

  8. Avatar

    broAhmed

    April 20, 2013 at 8:16 AM

    The stuff listed is sound advice. With the internet, in a few clicks you can either be reading Qur’aan or viewing pornography; giving children unlimited access is asking for trouble. I’m seeing more and more young children carrying smartphones, which means unlimited access to the internet without supervision, and I just shake my head. Parents need to ask themselves “Does my child really need these things?” without regard for what other parents are doing. Just because other parents are giving their kids smartphones and laptops unsupervised does not mean you need to jump on the bandwagon, especially if you do not have the ability to provide a significant amount of monitoring.

    As others have touched on, people will want privacy as they get older but the point here is to help children build healthy habits when they’re young. The hope is those healthy habits will carry on when they get older inshaAllah.

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      JazakAllah khayrun for your thoughts broahmed. We think we are not in the rat race, we don’t keep up with the Jones but we sure do try to keep up with the Ahmeds :) when it comes to gadgets. I am sorry I have not replied earlier, I am not good with comments but I will try my best to respond.
      I recently recorded a podcast on this topic with Greed For Ilm and will share it with everyone inshaAllah.

  9. Avatar

    RCHOUDH

    April 21, 2013 at 8:03 PM

    Mash’Allah great article and one worth being passed around to those that need it. I just have a question, do you or anyone here know of some reliable monitoring softwares? I once heard of one particular software that woudl automatically shut down the internet after a certain amount of time was up. Does anyone know if this is real?? And just to illustrate how often parents have to be on their toes nowadays, I was helping my daughter do some research online when we came across this diet ad putting a half-naked woman’s body on full display. Out of shock, all I could tell my daughter was to pay no attention to it as we worked. This just goes to show how pervasive these images are nowadays even after you monitor and restrict internet access!

    • Hena Zuberi

      Hena Zuberi

      May 5, 2013 at 3:16 PM

      Assalam alaykum wa rahmatulah RChoud,
      Jazakillah Khayra for sharing and appreciating the post. I see ads for Safenet, uknowkids mines facebook pages and text messages for words that parents preset.

      I know some photos that pop up are so disturbing that its a fitnah, I feel bad for our brothers. Alsp parents need to be careful letting their kids use Google search for images.

      One Brother on Muslimatters blocks all images that come on his computer. Let me feed you his instructions. I can’t do that as I need them for work.
      My cousin uses K-9; Netnanny is great too. You can use your router to block sites, laptops themselves have settings that you can use. Again depends on the age of the kids so .check out the features that you need.

  10. Umm Reem

    Umm Reem

    April 29, 2013 at 10:52 PM

    Wow Hena, I just read your article mashaAllah. Great advice! Totally agree with everything you said.

    As a mother of a teenager and another one turning one soon inshaAllah, I have passwords of all their emails, twitter and tumbler and the list goes on… :)

    All their electronic devices, including their smart phones, have parental control installed, and they know about it. Their phones stay with us at night, and the internet goes off from their computers after 9pm (you can set it up like that in the laptops).

    But even with all the monitoring we have, we can’t protect our kids 100% or even 80%…It’s a really corrupted world we are raising our kids in. My daughter tells me how innocent words, as you mentioned, lead to some really horrible sites. She loves to bake and she often searches cake recipes on tumbler and people have strange stuff tagged under it, iyyadhobillah.

    So in the end, its how much you can communicate with your child really matters. Alhamdullialh keeping a VERY open communication with them has helped tremendously.

    And we as parents have to remember that our children will make mistakes, but as long as they feel bad and try harder next time, we have to be their support and encouragement, not someone who criticize them. We have to approach our kids wisely and gently, dropping a reminder here and there…

    May Allah give us tawfeeq to be wise and patient and good parents, and may Allah protect our children from the evil of their selves and the evil around them.

    • Umm Reem

      Umm Reem

      April 29, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      forgot to add, and the du’a for our children. In our times, it’s the weapon we must use against shaytaan for their protection…we have to prolong our du’as for our kids.

      • Avatar

        Hyde

        April 30, 2013 at 12:31 PM

        Certainly for the du’a against the shayteen which seem to flourishing in today’s times. I think SHY alludes to internet websites and the jinns. I mean who is to say who is is really behind some of these “dark & dingy” websites…ah the times we live.

        • Hena Zuberi

          Hena Zuberi

          May 5, 2013 at 3:22 PM

          Dua is indeed the weapon of the believer. And seriously, I just attended an event at a local masjid, wrote about it here: http://www.muslimlinkpaper.com/community-news/community-news/3350-pornography-addiction-afflicting-youth-adults-say-experts-.html and was blown away; I knew it was an issue but how pervasive it is in communities, in men and women and youth.
          Interesting point about Jinnat and these sites.
          Most of the people who are in this industry are drug addicts, abused, drunk. May Allah keep us all in His Protection.

          • Avatar

            Hyde

            May 5, 2013 at 5:02 PM

            Pornography is well beyond the issue, i.e. it is not an elephant in the room like it was 20 some years ago (before I was born); it is a raging clown that I think America has accepted as part of life. Even across the pond, Sister Miriam Francois refers in one of her talks, how a British MP was accused of stealing money to help buy pornography for her own husband! It has become the status quo (just like kufr).

            You may block your children from the computer, but you won’t be able to completely stop them, since they will see that stuff at school. The dilemma is to educate them to make them understand why they must not watch them; No because I/You said so is not going to work.

            Worse than the Jinnat are the human shayteen, who have accrued the dealings with the dark side. Hollywood, another dark machine, generally has grouped evil into genies and hocus-pocus crazy exorcist stuff. Evil is much more persuasive.

            May God protect us and our children (especially our daughters, the gems of the Ummah !).

    • Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

      April 30, 2013 at 7:07 AM

      Aameen!

  11. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    May 5, 2013 at 3:37 PM

    Jazakillah Khayra Habibti-
    Definitely monitoring is just a step; we have to teach them to make decisions and think critically. Being bloggers we know the value of the internet but also the perils.
    They have to be used to the idea of monitoring as even employers monitor emails, and check Facebook accounts when hiring. They have to know what they say or post could be used against them. They need to know that what
    they write/communicate or download in e-mails, on blogs, personal pages, etc.
    Those words and downloads could follow them for the rest of their lives and akhirah.
    Not only can people print out copies of what they have written, the information,
    even if deleted, can become a permanent record on the hard drive.
    People can lose jobs, relationships, and careers over it.
    Ameen to the duas.
    We do our job and let Allah take care of the rest. If they fall then we help them see the lesson in their all and so tawbah and then carry on.

  12. Hena Zuberi

    Hena Zuberi

    May 22, 2013 at 5:19 PM

    Another interesting read for parents

    Teen’s aren’t abandoning Facebook — deactivating their accounts would mean missing out on the crucial social intrigues that transpire online — and 94 percent of teenage social media users still have profiles on the site, Pew’s report notes. But they’re simultaneously migrating to Twitter and Instagram, which teens say offer a parent-free place where they can better express themselves. Eleven percent of teens surveyed had Instagram accounts, while the number of teen Twitter users climbed from 16 percent in 2011 to 24 percent in 2012. Five percent of teens have accounts on Tumblr, which was just purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 billion, while 7 percent have accounts on Myspace.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/21/teens-facebook-pew-study_n_3313812.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular#slide=more224246

  13. Avatar

    Hena

    September 5, 2013 at 12:29 PM

    80 percent of parents don’t know how to check up on what their kids are doing online. Not only that, 74 percent “simply admit defeat and claim that they do not have the time or energy to keep up with their children and hope for the best,” according to the study’s authors. But Steiner-Adair says defeat is not an option when you consider all of the damaging content kids can easily stumble upon online. While interviewing kids for her book, Steiner-Adair says, several teen boys asked her questions about sexual scenes they’d seen online. “They would say, ‘can you help me understand why a woman would want to be choked while having sex? Why would she want to be peed on?’”

    Good article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/04/ways-screens-are-ruining-your-familys-life_n_3860927.html

  14. Pingback: RELIGION: Parenting Young Women in the Age of Extremism | 319 Magazine

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#Current Affairs

Oped: The Treachery Of Spreading Bosnia Genocide Denial In The Muslim Community

The expanding train of the Srebrenica genocide deniers includes the Nobel laureate Peter Handke, an academic Noam Chomsky, the Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić, as well as almost all Serbian politicians in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. One name in this group weirdly stands out: “Sheikh” Imran Hosein. A traditionally trained Muslim cleric from Trinidad and Tobago, Hosein has carved his niche mostly with highly speculative interpretations of Islamic apocalyptic texts. He has a global following with more than 200 hundred thousand subscribers to his YouTube channel, and his videos are viewed by hundreds of thousands. He has written tens of books in English, some of which had been translated into major world languages. His denial of the Srebrenica genocide may seem outlandish, coming from a Muslim scholar, but a close inspection of his works reveals ideas that are as disturbing as they are misleading.

Much of Hosain’s output centers around interpreting the apocalyptic texts from the Qur’an and Sunnah on the “end of times” (akhir al-zaman). As in other major religious traditions, these texts are highly allegorical in nature and nobody can claim with certainty their true meaning – nobody, except Imran Hosein. He habitually dismisses those who disagree with his unwarranted conclusions by accusing them of not thinking properly. A Scottish Muslim scholar, Dr. Sohaib Saeed, also wrote about this tendency.

In his interpretations, the Dajjal (“anti-Christ”) is American-Zionist alliance (the West or the NATO), the Ottomans were oppressors of the Orthodox Christians who are, in turn, rightfully hating Islam and Muslims, Sultan Mehmed Fatih was acting on “satanic design” when he conquered Constantinople, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were a false flag operation carried out by the Mossad and its allies, and – yes! – the genocide did not take place in Srebrenica. Such conspiratorial thinking is clearly wrong but is particularly dangerous when dressed in the garb of religious certainty. 

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Hosain frequently presents his opinions as the “Islamic” view of things. His methodology consists of mixing widely accepted Muslim beliefs with his own stretched interpretations. The wider audience may not be as well versed in Islamic logic of interpretation so they may not be able to distinguish between legitimate Muslim beliefs and Hosain’s own warped imagination. In one of his fantastic interpretations, which has much in common with the Christian apocalypticism, the Great War that is nuclear in nature is coming and the Muslims need to align with Russia against the American-Zionist alliance. He sees the struggle in Syria as part of a wider apocalyptic unfolding in which Assad and Putin are playing a positive role. He stretches the Qur’anic verses and Prophetic sayings to read into them fanciful and extravagant interpretations that are not supported by any established Islamic authority.

Hosain does not deny that a terrible massacre happened in Srebrenica. He, however, denies it was a genocide, contradicting thus numerous legal verdicts by international courts and tribunals. Established by the United Nations’ Security Council, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) delivered a verdict of genocide in 2001 in the case of the Bosnian Serb General Radislav Krstić. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague confirmed, in 2007, that genocide took place in Srebrenica. In 2010, two more Bosnian Serb officers were found guilty of committing genocide in Bosnia. The butcher of Srebrenica, Ratko Mladić, was found guilty of genocide in 2017.

In spite of this, and displaying his ignorance on nature and definition of genocide, Hosain stated in an interview with the Serbian media, “Srebrenica was not a genocide. That would mean the whole Serbian people wanted to destroy the whole Muslim people. That never happened.” In a meandering and offensive video “message to Bosnian Muslims” in which he frequently digressed to talking about the end of times, Hosain explained that Srebrenica was not a genocide and that Muslims of Bosnia needed to form an alliance with the Orthodox Serbs. He is oblivious to the fact that the problems in Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the former Yugoslavia stem not from the Bosniaks’ purported unwillingness to form an alliance with the Serbs, but from the aggressive Greater Serbia ideology which had caused misery and destruction in Bosnia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Kosovo. 

Hosein’s views are, of course, welcome in Serbia and in Republika Srpska (Serb-dominated entity within Bosnia), where almost all politicians habitually deny that genocide took place in Srebrenica. He had been interviewed multiple times on Serbian television, where he spewed his views of the Ottoman occupation and crimes against the Serbs, the need to form an alliance between Muslims and Russia, and that Srebrenica was not a genocide. His website contains only one entry on Srebrenica: a long “exposé” that claims no genocide took place in Srebrenica. Authored by two Serbs, Stefan Karganović and Aleksandar Pavić, the special report is a hodge-podge of conspiracy theories, anti-globalization and anti-West views. Karganović, who received more than a million dollars over a six year period from the government of the Bosnian Serb-led Republika Srpska for lobbying efforts in Washington, was recently convicted by the Basic Court in Banja Luka on tax evasion and defamation. The Court issued a warrant for Karganović’s arrest but he is still on the loose. 

True conspirators of the Srebrenica killings, according to Hosain, are not the Serbian political and military leaders, and soldiers who executed Srebrenica’s Muslims. The conspirators are unnamed but it does not take much to understand that he believes that the massacres were ultimately orchestrated by the West, CIA, and NATO. Hosain even stated on the Serbian TV that if people who knew the truth were to come forward they would be executed to hide what really happened. Such opinions are bound to add to an already unbearable pain that many survivors of the Srebrenica genocide are experiencing. It is even more painful when Bosniak victims – who were killed because they were Muslims – are being belittled by an “Islamic” scholar who seems to be more interested in giving comfort to those who actually perpetrated the heinous crime of genocide than in recognizing the victims’ pain. These views are, of course, welcome in Serbia, Russia, and Greece.

It is not difficult to see why Hosain’s views would be popular in today’s day and age where misinformation and fake news are propagated even by the world leaders who should know better. A conspiratorial mindset, mistrust of established facts, undermining of international institutions – these are all hallmarks of the post-truth age. In another time, Imran Hosain would be easily exposed for what he truly is: a charlatan who claims religious expertise. Today, however, his opinions are amplified by social media and by the people who already question science and established facts. For these reasons, he needs to be unmasked to safeguard the very religious foundations which he claims to uphold but ultimately undermines. 

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#Life

A Festival Amidst a Pandemic: How to Give Your Kids an Eid ul-Adha to Remember

Eid ul-Adha is less than 3 weeks away!  This year, more than ever, we want to welcome Eid ul-Adha with a full heart and spirit, insha’Allah, despite the circumstances we are in with the global pandemic.

If you follow me on social media, you probably know that my husband and I host an open house brunch for Eid ul-Adha, welcoming over 125 guests into our home. It’s a party our Muslim and non-Muslim neighbors, friends, and family look forward to being invited to each year. It’s a time to come together as a community, share heart-felt conversations, have laughs, chow down lots of delicious food, and exchange gifts. Kids participate in fun crafts, decorate cookies, and receive eidi. The reality is that we cannot keep up with the tradition this year.

Despite social distancing, we have decided that we will continue to lift our spirits and switch our summer décor to Eid décor, and make it the best Eid for our family and our child. We want to instill the love of Islam in my daughter and make the Islamic festivals a real part of her life. We want to create warm Eid memories, and COVID-19 isn’t going to stop us from doing that. I really hope you plan to do the same.

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Here are 4 ideas to inspire you to bring that festive spirit alive for your family this Eid ul-Adha:

Hajj and Eid ul-Adha themed activities and crafts

There are so many activities to keep the little ones engaged, but having a plan for Eid-ul-Adha with some key activities that your child will enjoy, makes the task so much easier.

Kids love stories, and for us parents this is a great way to get a point across. Read to them about hajj in an age appropriate way. If you don’t have Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha related books, you can get started with this Hajj book list. Read together about the significance and the Islamic traditions of hajj, and the story of how zamzam was discovered. While you teach them the story of the divine sacrifice of Ibrahim 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him), ask relatable questions. As a lesson from the story, give your child examples of how they can sacrifice their anger, bad behavior, etc. during this season of sacrifice for the sake of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He). Ask your children how they would feel if they had to give away their favorite toys, so that they can comprehend the feeling.

Counting down the 10 days of Dhul Hijjah to Eid ul-Adha is another fun activity to encourage kids to do a good deed every day. Have different fun and education activities planned for these 10 days.

Family memories are made through baking together. In our household, Eid cannot pass without baking cookies together and sharing with friends and family. Bake and decorate Eid ul-Adha themed cookies in the shape of a masjid, camel, or even lamb, and share with the neighbors one day, and color in Islamic wooden crafts the next. This DIY Ka’bah craft is a must for us to make every year while learning about the Ka’bah, and it’s an easy craft you can try with your family. Have the kids save their change in this cute masjid money box that they can donate on the day of Eid.

Decorate the main family areas

We are all going to be missing visiting friends and relatives for Eid breakfast, lunch, and dinner this year, so why not jazz things up a bit more at home than usual?

Start decorating the areas of your home that you frequently occupy.  Brighten up the living area, and/or main hallway with a variety of star and masjid-shaped lights, festive lanterns, and Eid garlands, to emphasize that Eid has indeed arrived. Perhaps, decorate a tent while you tell your children about the tent city of Mina.

Prep the dining room as if you are having Guests Over

Set up the breakfast table as if you are having family and friends over for Eid breakfast.

These times will be the special moments you spend together eating as a family. Now, with all hands on deck, plan to get everyone involved to make it a full-on affair. What specific tasks can the little ones take on to feel included as part of the Eid prep and get excited?

While the Eid table set-up itself can be simple, the moments spent around the table sharing in new traditions and engaging in prayer will insha’Allah be even more meaningful and memorable.

 An afternoon picnic

Family picnics are a perfect way for family members to relax and connect. If Texas weather permits, we may take advantage of a cool sunny day with a picnic at a nearby, shady park. With the heat wave we are experiencing, it may either not happen or will be an impromptu one.

Out of all the picnics, it’s the impromptu family meals on the lawn or at a park that I love the most. The ones where we grab an old quilt, basket, light meals, fresh fruits and venture out into the backyard or a nearby park. It’ll be a perfect socially distanced Eid picnic.

Eid ul-Adha comes around just once a year, so let’s strive to make the best of it for our children, even amidst this global pandemic.

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#Society

The Problem With “When They Go Low, We Go High” In An Anti-Black Society

In 2016, First Lady Michelle Obama’s quote, ‘When they go low, we go high’, was first invoked in response to growing anti-black and racist sentiments hurled by the current president and his supporters. Like many others, I believed it was stirring and motivational, yet never felt right in my heart, let alone mind. Going high, but what was the starting point? How are we defining the actions of the ‘they’ or ‘them’? What is the breaking point, when engagement with the ‘they’ becomes problematic and leads to your destruction? Are there rules to this engagement? What game are we playing? Who gets to be the judge or referee? So, the quote and the sentiment never really set right in my heart and led to more questions than answers.

The first assumption of the quote, ‘they’  have a moral compass and actively engaging you in this manner, placing you on the same level. The reality, whiteness in America seeks to maintain its power and control. White slaveholders and the system of hate they used to justify those they enslaved, built a model of power and control, which is the foundation of our current economy and societal structure. This institutionalized whiteness is so ingrained in our culture we are blind to its implications and oblivious to how we each play a role in maintaining this system. Ignorance of the historical development of this country and the narrative of being ‘American’ allows for ‘them’ to maintain their control and a passive acceptance of ‘their’ control and power.

The ‘they’ is often not embodied in a singular person or one group, but a collective body of thoughts and behavior; perpetuating fundamental beliefs or maintaining a perceived status quo. It is individual, institutional, and structural. While social media is full of single racially- charged incidents, when viewed as a whole, they are rooted in long-held beliefs and perceptions of white superiority and disdain for Black presence in their daily lives. Guilt, maybe. Fear. Many are not even aware of how and why they ‘hate’ Black people they simply, do. Here is where we will begin, if you cannot soundly identify or recognize why you hold a particular belief or idea, your actions can never firmly centered in a morally or ethically position. Many of the recent encounters reveal whiteness is predicated on lies; and the belief that white words are superior to truth. The interaction between a San Francisco couple, confronting a Black Man. provides a case study in how we are often engaged and the surveillance of our presence. Threats to call the police, with false information was of no significance to them in their minds, they were right and justified. This incident and the modern-day lynchings of Black persons, allows us to understand ‘they’ or morally bankrupt and will do whatever is necessary to maintain their perceived control.

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A quote by Matshona Dhilwayo bridges the gap between the contradictions in my heart and the understanding my mind seeks,

“It is possible to turn the other cheek when one has stopped counting.”

For generations, Black Americans have taken the ‘higher’ road in response to prejudice and discrimination. At times I believe, we have stopped counting because we knew few changes were coming or justice. During the pinnacle of the civil rights movement during the 60’s the emergence of Malcolm X, challenged the idea of ‘turning the cheek’ when faced with violent acts perpetrated upon Blacks by Whites. The slaps, the senseless murders of Black people on the streets, you count and recognize your enemy for who and what they represent.

In confronting our enemy, we must meet them on their home field of engagement. Millions have taken to the streets across the globe, no longer willing to accept the status quo and suffer needlessly at the hands of those who seek to negate our very existence. As a country, we must understand, this was NEVER a fair fight, on an equal field of battle, or with ample weapons. Nothing about the ‘American’ way of life ever guaranteed any of us a fair shot or equality.

You can not get justice from a system founded by people who in the 1700s published books on how to address the ‘negro problem’. Even Thomas Jefferson knew this day was coming, but in the end, he still held firmly to the belief we were an inferior race who could be easily controlled and manipulated.

Did the enemy play fair when Dr. King was trying to catch a moment of calm at the Lorraine Hotel? Was the enemy morally centered when Malcolm stood in the Audubon Auditorium and was assassinated in front of his family? Did they think twice as Medger Evers pulled into his driveway to spend the evening with his wife and family? When Fred Hampton lay in bed beside his wife was there a second thought?

The idea is not to meet your enemy on some lofty plateau of moral superiority, because they have none; their superiority is based on an ideology that doesn’t even recognize you as their equal. The real lesson, learn from your enemy- their tactics, fighting styles, and methods of engagement. Fight them not with their tools, but your own.

As people of faith, we tend to view those around us, as divine creations of The One; forgetting it was one of those divine creations, who we call the Shaytan. Yes, we accept others for who they are and respect all of humanity. The balance then becomes in recognizing just as the Quran teaches, not everyone will be called to faith or will lead peaceful harmonious lives. This is where we find ourselves, after almost five hundred years of oppression and abuse across the world, here in America, there may not be any redemptive hope for our enemy or the system they created. This does not mean, we simply acquiesce to their control and power, it means we engage them on a level playing field and defeat them using their own rules and weapons.

Knowing your enemy does not mean you become them; nor does it eliminate Divine intervention during periods of unrest. Knowing your enemy, is simply that you fully embrace the reality that they are your enemy and act accordingly. While we hold firm to our faith and the knowledge that He is the Best of Planners, we cannot enter into the enemy’s seat of power believing our mere presence and fervent prayers will somehow miraculously and instantly change their heart. That is not our calling or role, and not our divine purpose. Imams, scholars, and activists engaged in the work of justice and equality, are not divinely elevated to personas and are not representatives of our Lord, but mere offering religious insight and guidance. They hold space, offering insight, and protection.

Never, in the history of this country, have those in power and control ever fully recognized, accepted, or atoned for the entrapment, kidnapping, and enslavement of Africans. Instead, they have violently and systematically created a country of denial and continued oppression. The argument is that things have improved from the ’60s.  My response, I am still not free of the anxiety of having my children taken from this world, simply because they are Black.

We are not allowed to move about this world without having to do twice as much; be ten times better; while still being thought of as less than.

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