conflict, rather, WAR, in Gaza and Israel is very difficult for many people to discuss. Emotions are raw and memories are vivid. It does not get any easier when children or teenagers see the news or hear about this ongoing humanitarian and political crisis. In this post, I will provide five pointers on how to talk about the Gaza-Israel war between you and your child. Importantly, I address the issue from an educational Muslim standpoint. *Note: Only have this discussion with a child who is at least in 4th grade. Children younger than this will not understand much. Instead focus on involving them in charity, dua, and personal development. Vary the level of information and detail as the age increases.
1. History – If you are unfamiliar with the history of the Holy Land, make sure you read up and be informed. For many Muslims, Palestine, or, Filistīn, is not only personal but tied to religious values. Therefore, extra caution and objectivity must be upheld. Provide a brief history on how the Holy Land, since ancient times, has been a battleground between great civilizations. Because it has thas been fought over between numerous ethnic groups, technically, each group “can” have a claim to it. Muslim parents must not deny that Judaism and Christianity are intrinsically linked to the Holy Land prior to the appearance of Islam. I mean “Islam” with a capital “I,” since “islam,” with a lower case “i,” or, “submission to God,” according to Islamic theology, existed since the creation of humans. Far too often, do you find nationalistic tendencies result in the denial of ancient history. Once this is established, narrate the story of Isrā’ wa Mi’rāj to show how all three faiths have historical ties to the holy land. However, over the last 1400 years Jerusalem and Palestine have been, for the most part, under Islamic rule. Therefore, it is reasonable to point out at this moment to your child that Muslims view Palestine as historically and politically Islamic. Note that I did not say, Arab. Do point out that many Jewish people view this differently. Do not get caught up in an emotional plea in refuting Jewish legitimacy to the Holy Land. It doesn’t matter at this point. Not debating it does not negate Palestinian Muslim claims. But, to be fair, be sure to state both sides of this matter. Next, talk about how in the aftermath of the Holocaust, Jewish identity gave way to a nationalistic movement within the Jewish Diaspora, also known as, Zionism, to campaign for a Jewish homeland. Talk about how the creation of Israel in 1948 has rendered the Palestinians homeless and stuck in Gaza, West Bank, Jordan, the Middle East, and all over the world. It is important to note that this aspect is more or less historical. Avoid getting into inflammatory nationalism and patriotism. In no shape or fashion should a parent allow their emotional and or religious sentiments to boil over and deny history. Neither should one feel that stating history in this fashion is an insult to Palestinians, or in some cases, an insult to Jewish people.
2. Don’t Deny & Stick to the Facts – Too many Muslims, because of ignorance and racial biases toward Jews, are quick to deny or express skepticism of the Holocaust, uselessly rant against Jewish claims to the Holy land – for legitimate or illegitimate claims and deny history. Whether you like it or not, the Holocaust did happen. Did Jews deserve it? No. Never. But does acknowledging the Holocaust mean that Palestinians have lost the debate? No. Palestinians, I believe, still have their right and claim to their land. But, when you are talking to your child, stay calm and don’t let your pain and passion blind you and cause you to say ridiculous things. Sometimes you even have parents blindly “denying the existence of Israel.” Israel does exist whether Muslims like it not. If you don’t believe me, look on a map. If Israel does not exist, then where are all the incarcerated Palestinians? As for recognizing the legitimacy of the state of Israel, that is a separate topic. However, does it matter at this point to your child? Stay relevant and avoid conspiracy theories.
Muslims need to learn not to deny the facts on the ground. They need to admit that Israel has the “upper-hand” no matter how bitter this reality is to all. Denial only leads to scapegoating. State the facts. For children, I advise against showing them gory pictures. It is unnecessary. But in this conflict, it’s important to statistically state and explain how the State of Israel systematically oppresses, denies, alienates, and wages war on the Palestinians. In fairness, Muslims should not deny their own ineptitude and mistakes. Because of Muslim stagnation in practice and unity, Palestine is what it is today. Therefore, it’s easy to blame others. Blaming only shifts the attention away from one’s weakness in faith and practice. Avoid moaning about how the Muslim leaders of today are useless. This point is worthless and only aims to shift the blame onto the leaders. In no way am I defending Muslim leaders. But in this dialogue with your child, you need not to drift away from the main issues at hand.
3. Don’t Generalize – Too many Muslims generalize all Jewish people as pro-Israeli. There are many Jewish people who stand with Palestinians. Many Jews disagree with Israel’s policies. Therefore, it is safer to state that “many Israelis and Jews” stand with Israel but not all. No matter how atrocious Israel wages its war against Gaza/West Bank, Muslims should never say that all Jews are evil. Moreover, never take religious texts out of context to generalize a whole ethnicity. Not only is this offensive, but it is also religiously incorrect and condemnable. Be sure to show them plenty of documentaries, websites or organizations run by Jewish people condemning Israel’s actions.
4. Spiritual Lessons – Teach your child the power of empathy. Teach them that it is a part of a Muslim’s duty to sympathize with the pain and suffering of ALL people. Teach them that this is a great trial upon Muslims. Patience, reliance on God, restraint are all aspects some Muslims fail to teach their kids in a healthy way. Don’t be the parent that teaches the kid to curse Jews. Don’t be the parent that teaches the kid that Palestine is an Arab issue. Stop saying, “Where are the Arabs?” Instead, ask yourself, “What can we do in our faith to help them?” How can we incorporate dua into our routine? How can we avoid blaming God for this crisis and giving up? How can we incorporate the Prophetic example of being patient during a time of weakness when he was in Mecca? Teach your kids to never give up. That no matter much sacrifice it is, the reason this crisis is ongoing is only known to God. We cannot doubt God’s wisdom. We cannot despair. We shed tears but we will not shed our dignity. But, we can try to ask Allah to grant us patience, forgive the victims and grant them jannah. Teach them to be grateful. We live in safe homes. They are tested with patience. We will be tested with gratitude and how we use our knowledge and action to help the oppressed. Stop talking about how the PLO, PLA, Hamas, and governments are good or bad. It doesn’t matter to a child. Those organizations are not relevant. What is relevant to a child is knowing that we care about Palestine and that our faith demands us to love all those who love our Islamic cause.
5. Healthy Action – Instead of sitting in front of the television cursing and seething, use this opportunity to teach your kids a healthy outlet to express their anger and pain. Teach them the importance of civic duty. Write to your local congressman/woman. Take them to rallies. Take them to fundraising dinners. Get them involved in toy drives. Get your teenager to be calm while speaking up for Palestine when necessary. Involve them in raising funds for orphans. Whatever it is, always turn the issue into a healthy law-abiding action.
In this post, I give certain guidelines for parents on how to talk about the Gaza-Israel war. This post is directed towards a goal-oriented parent. We as parents have a duty to address this tragedy. But only by being honest to history, avoiding generalizations and abstaining from denial can we thus teach our kids to have a rationale approach. Always teach spiritual lessons from this tragedy to propel your kids to healthy action. The video below not only gives a good historical overview, but also provides a solution.