Muslim Life, From a Teen’s View

March 20, 2009

Author: Barbara Karkabi

Source: The Houston Chronicle

Imran Hafiz Jr. trotted off one afternoon to play football with his friends.

But his friends told Imran that he couldn’t play. Puzzled, he asked, “Why not?”

The answer was fast and surprising: “Because we think you are part of the Taliban.”

Discouraged, the then-8-year-old went home to talk to his mother. “I wish I could explain,” he said to her.

Less than 10 years later, Imran, now 17, his mother, Dilara, and sister Yasmine, 18, have done just that in The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook (Simon & Schuster, $11.99).

First published by a small company in Phoenix, where the family lives, it was later picked up by Simon & Schuster. A second edition with a different cover and two new chapters came out in February.

“After Sept. 11, I kept hearing the refrain: ‘Where are the moderate Muslims? Why is no one speaking out?’ ” recalled Dilara Hafiz. “I consider myself a moderate Muslim, and I grew up in this country. We overcame our reluctance to talk about religion because we wanted to give both introspection and perspective.”

The Hafizes understand that many people have never met a Muslim nor read positive things about the faith. It was a gap they wanted to fill. But they also wanted to help American Muslim teens who often feel caught between two worlds.

Not long before they decided to write the book, Yasmine Hafiz, now a freshman at Yale University, was in a bookstore. She saw teen books for Christians, Jews “and even Wiccans” but nothing for Muslims.

And so began their family project. First they sent out a survey to 44 Islamic schools across the country. Some of the questions asked about Islam, others concerned dating, dancing and wearing the hijab (a scarf). Half of the girls said they wore the hijab, and nearly all said they did not drink.

“We also asked: ‘Do you pray?’ and ‘Do you pray five times a day?’ (one of the five pillars of Islam),” Dilara Hafiz said. “We got answers like: ‘No, because I don’t know how.’ Maybe they went to a mosque and were turned away because they weren’t dressed right.”

So they put in information on prayer, with illustrations showing different positions, from bowing to kneeling.

The book was written over three years and was a true collaboration. Imran and Yasmine wrote on weekends and in the summer, and the family computer was always open to a chapter they were working on.

Both Americans and Muslims have enjoyed the book, though for non-Muslims, Dilara Hafiz recommends the first chapter: Islam 101.

See also: Islam, Civic, Youth