By Farozan Warsi

The beautiful Afzaal family was laid to rest on Saturday, 12th June, 2021 in London, Ontario. To Allah we belong and to Him we return! The battle for little Fayez, the surviving son in hospital, has just begun. One wonders about the unsurmountable challenges this little warrior will have to face once the dust settles. The biggest one being trying to make sense of the hate that took his anchors away.

A cold blooded person, driven by hate, decided that the Afzaal family mustn’t live, because they belonged to a certain faith.

The world is moving so fast. A few days after this heart-wrenching incident other news has already begun taking over. The issue however, is beyond mere claims about fighting intolerance.

We seem to be living in times of uncontrolled racism giving rise to prejudice and suspicion, injustice and bias. If this is the toxic environment that our children are growing up in, then our curriculum for their future will have to be very carefully drafted. Once upon a time we did not have to contend with such open hostility in the environment. Now we are fearful of what our children might experience in the wider world as they grow. The choice is not to remain fearsome. Rather it is to successfully operate in a society that will respect and value the people we are.

There are two main centers of learning for children: home and the school. These are environments that are responsible for a fair amount of character building. There are two ways that children learn. First is through directed guidance provided by the adult. Second is through careless exchanges between adults, not intended for a child’s ears, but something he absorbs from nevertheless. Resentful comments about a community, ridiculing of a race, denigration of a person’s ethnicity become impressions that are consumed by children inadvertently and later could find expression in their behavior.

The school is a bigger environment where this little individual might share strong views by looking down on some of his schoolmates. This could also play out in the form of bullying, mocking, sneering, humiliating other kids who are different. The job of educators is critical as they not only must remain cognizant of this negativity in the environment but must take immediate steps to curb it. And here, when we use the word ‘educator’ it really means any adult who is part of a child’s upbringing.

What can we, as parents do to engage children in a way where embracing diversity becomes the norm?

1. Charity begins at home.

The cleaning up must begin there. Open expressions of prejudice, indiscriminate comments about anyone, negative opinions about a person’s personality, all kinds of bigotry etc. are all picked up from adults who the child constantly interacts with.

2. Religion becomes the bone of contention when differences arise.

Islam promotes oneness of the human race, in fact it forbids discrimination based on individual characteristics. The Prophet’s SWS last message clearly tells us that : All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non- Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action….”  We need to become good role models for this sentiment so children absorb it from us.

2. Focus on the Good

Give our children opportunities to see good in others rather than bad. Every so often we adults might voice our strong annoyance or criticism of another person. This is how negativity is absorbed.  

3. Understanding Community

Helping them understand that we do not live alone in this world. We are not independent; rather we are an inter-dependent community. We must respect each other. We must recognize that everyone has basic human rights which must not be transgressed.

4. Promoting compassion.

Empathizing with anyone who is suffering – does not matter which faith he comes from, what the colour of his skin is, what economic background he comes from or what his ethnicity is.

5. Get more Involved

Every so often, as human beings, we have a tendency to believe that we are being rejected by others because we belong to a particular race, religion or culture. Instead of isolating ourselves with that belief in our heads, we need to try and integrate with the community, with the goodness of our characters.
Doing so does not need to come into conflict with our identity as Muslims or any other tradition.

Making the world a better place” are words we hear all the time. The only way that the world can become a better place is first through the rejection of hostility, animosity, hatred, aggression, ill-will of any kind against humankind, by humankind.

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About the Author

Farozan Warsi is an Educator and Author who has an interest in child psychology and theology. She draws her inspiration from the hundreds of children she has taught and guided – specifically her three grandchildren. Her writing is an homage to them. Through her writing at Farozans Book Shelf she hopes to ignite a curiosity about Islam amongst this most thoughtful generation. With this specific work, she aims to exemplify the mysteries of Islam through a fun-filled genre. She comes from generations of writers and educators. She lives in Canada with her spouse where she paints pictures with her words.