By: Wahida C. Valiante
The maiming and killing of Palestinians, Chechens, Iraqis, Kashmiris, Afghanis and many other innocent people around the world are a daily occurrence. The world may be inured to it because it has become routine, or because the victims are of a different faith and colour or race. But parents wonder how to explain this collective human propensity for brutality and inhumanity, mass killing and extermination to their children. We may offer them intellectual justification or hide behind the historical reality of ancient hatred, but we can never convince them of the necessity of such brutality and inhumanity.
The children must wonder whether the leaders of the nations are capable of telling them the truth, or their parents have the ability to teach them how to create a world where peace, liberty, justice and equity, rule of law, economic fairness, human equality, and international human rights would prevail. The racism, greed, and religious hatred that have fanned the fires of war are still alive on the pages of newspapers, magazines, films, and novels; and they continue to pose a threat to the cultural and religious identity and well being of billions of people worldwide. How to ensure that the children become upright world citizens and spared the vicious cycle of ethnic and religious hatred, human greed and lust for power?
Will the children, be able to transcend ethnic and religious hatreds, and the lust for power and wealth, to foster a global civil society based on the principles of fundamental freedom and human rights for all? It will depend on what and how we teach and nurture our children, the future generation-in-the-making, to be good and worthwhile citizens of the world. There is indeed a way out of the vicious cycle.
Across the ages and throughout the world, parents, teachers, philosophers, religious and civic leaders have wrestled with the question of how to raise morally and ethically responsible citizens in every society and civilization. Today, the task before parents is greater: they have not only to raise good citizens of the state, but also to train them to be good citizens of the world, to be part of humanity and the community of nations.
These days, to meet their own needs, parents increasingly rely on day care centers, baby sitters, tutors, educators, health care providers. Early childhood classes and organized social activities. As partners in our children's education, however, we simply cannot abdicate our nurturing responsibility and leave outside educators and other professionals to instill ethical and moral values in our children without reinforcement and role models at home.
Children need role models, and parents are their primary examples. To be good role models themselves, parents must also have models or mentors of their own whose example they can emulate. For Muslim parents, the ideal role model is the noble Prophet Muhammad SAW. "Indeed, in Allah's Messenger, you (men and women) have a good example for all whose hope is in Allah and in the Final Day and who remember Allah frequently." (Qur'an, 33:21) The Prophet's actions and deeds were local, but had global implications in terms of promoting social justice, economic equality, and harmony between different cultures, races, genders, and religions. We need to translate those Islamic global values into day-to-day reality for our children if they are to be worthy future representatives of God in the world community.
The most difficult and demanding challenge for parents today is not determining which civic or religious ideals to pass on to their children, but how effectively to translate them into daily routine. How can parents achieve this when both are juggling multiple jobs? Burdened by social and economic pressure, crime, violence, stressful family relationships, and a confusing political environment, they feel their confidence continually eroded as they try to be good nurturers and role models for their children. Therefore, parents also need guidance to help them translate Islamic ideals into daily life and the lives of their children. All this begins at home.