// The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook
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« on: Jun 26, 2008 05:02 PM »

Asalaamu Alaikum  bro

So has this been getting a lot of press over there?

Has anyone read it yet?

Dispelling misconceptions about a ‘hijacked’ faith

Erika Niedowski, Washington Bureau Chief
Last Updated: June 25. 2008 11:40PM UAE / June 25. 2008 7:40PM GMT


Imran Hafiz was in Grade 4 when the World Trade Center came crashing down on September 11 at the hands of al Qa’eda. Soon afterwards, some children at his Arizona school shunned him on the playground, and he asked why.

“Because you’re a Taliban,” they said.

“No, I’m not,” he replied.

“How do you know?”

Trying to convince his peers that being a Muslim did not mean he was a terrorist was an early exercise in what Imran, now 16, and his sister Yasmine, 18, have since done more formally in a book: trying to dispel misconceptions about a faith they say was effectively “hijacked”, along with the commercial airliners that brought down the Twin Towers, by Osama bin Laden.

The American Muslim Teenager’s Handbook – written with Dilara Hafiz, their mother – is a resource guide for young Muslims and anyone else who wants to know more about arguably the most misunderstood religion in the United States.

“Partly the onus is on us,” Mrs Hafiz, a native of Pakistan who was educated in the US and the United Kingdom, says of the American Muslim community. “It’s taken years for Muslims to say if we don’t define who we are, we’re letting others define us.”

Yasmine adds: “If you call yourself a Muslim, no one has the right to take that away from you.”

Like any good handbook, theirs starts with the basics, or what they call Islam 101, including the faith’s five pillars. There are sections on the hajj, the Quran and how to pray. There is an “unveiling” of the controversy over wearing the hijab and a quiz called Test Your Islamic IQ. Chapter nine is called Halal and Haram: Can I Go to McDonald’s? Chapter 11 asks: “Are all Muslims terrorists?”

The book is at once an attempt to dispel stereotypes – even some of those held by young Muslims the Hafizes surveyed, the majority of whom said they were Muslim because their parents were – and a call to be, in Mrs Hafiz’s words, “God conscious”.

“Did you turn to this chapter first?” the book asks in the chapter called The 4 Ds: Dating, Dancing, Drinking and Drugs. “If you’re hoping to find that Islam gives you permission to freely indulge in all of the above … sorry to disappoint you.”

The 129-page book, available at theamth.com and at Amazon.com, also promotes a more expansive view of Islam. Being devout, in this family’s view, does not necessarily mean praying five times a day or considering dating to be forbidden. Yasmine, for instance, thought her Sunday school teacher interpreted the Quran too strictly on the latter point, noting that her own parents had dated.

“We’re saying Islam is a religion of freedom,” says Imran, who is on the school debating team, in the Monty Python club and recently played Antonio in a stage version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.

Asma Gull Hasan, author of American Muslims: The New Generation, offers another view in the book’s foreword: “The most important lesson to learn is that your Islam is yours, not anyone else’s – not your parents’, your siblings’ or that wacky uncle who lectures you on the Quran at every Eid. Be patient with yourself. No one becomes a perfect Muslim overnight.”

The idea for the book came a few years ago when Yasmine, who will attend Yale University from the autumn, was perusing the shelves of a bookstore in Arizona. There were resources for young Catholics and Jews but nothing for young Muslims.

So the family decided they should write one.

The book, which has been translated into Chinese and will also be published in Dutch and French, is starting to get attention. The Citadel, a military college in South Carolina, has ordered it for a class, Mrs Hafiz says, and the Catholic archdiocese of Phoenix has recommended it for all middle and high-school pupils. A Jewish youth group on Long Island also has bought it, along with a girl scout troop in Utah.

This week, Yasmine was not allowed to give a copy to George W Bush while at the White House to receive the Presidential Scholar award for her academic achievements. The family said it would send a copy anyway.

There have been uncomfortable moments on the book circuit.

One man approached the family and asked if they knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. Some of Imran’s classmates have suggested another title for the book: The American Muslim Terrorist Handbook. And when Yasmine was profiled in Muslim Girl magazine, which featured a photograph of her wearing what she described as a modest skirt and black leggings – if her mother approved, it could not have been immodest, she points out – the online comment section filled with nasty entries about her clothing. “I thought it was a really cute outfit from Urban Outfitters,” says Yasmine, who is often attached to her iPod and never turns down a shopping trip.

Imran practically revels in his religious beliefs. “I call myself an Islamic fundamentalist,” he says cheerfully – meaning, he adds, that he subscribes to the fundamentals of the faith – before his sister pipes in: “We put the ‘fun’ in fundamentalism.”

But while Imran says he did not mind perpetually having to explain his religion, Yasmine, at times, has a different view.

“Sometimes I wish people would stop being so stupid,” she says. We’re Muslims, but No 1, we’re Americans.”


Say: "O ye my servants who believe! Fear your Lord, good is (the reward) for those who do good in this world. Spacious is God's earth! those who patiently persevere will truly receive a reward without measure!" [39:10]
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