"Mama, why do some people wear a scarf, and some people don't?"
Usually this would be a simple enough question for me to answer. I have actually answered it a number of times to quite a few kids (Muslim and nonMuslim), and I think I have a pretty good answer....one that satisfies the curiosity, isn't too complicated, and doesn't make kids feel alienated or different.
"No problem!" I thought. "I got this!"
I told my 6 year old daughter that some people believe they are supposed to wear hijaab, while others don't. I hoped this would be the end of the discussion, but nope, not this time it wasn't. The questions continued.
Normally I wouldn't mind having a nice long conversation answering every question as it came, but THIS time my daughter and I were standing in the check out line at Walmart surrounded by strangers. After about the 3rd question I quietly said we would continue the discussion in the car. Well, let's just say that THAT approach didn't work very well. My daughter is used to me answering her questions immediately, directly, and honestly, and when she noticed that I wasn't behaving normally she became suspicious:
"WHAT'S WRONG, MAMA? WHY WON'T YOU ANSWER ME? WHY DOESN'T EVERYONE COVER THEIR HAIR? WHY CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT IT HERE? BECAUSE PEOPLE DON'T LIKE IT? WHY, MAMA, WHY?"
I, like the mom who submitted the quote in the painting, am feeling conflicted these days. I want my kids to learn about their faith and be proud of being Muslim. I don't want them to think that discussing their faith is taboo, something only to be practiced behind closed doors or in the presence of other Muslims. But at the same time I know that practicing our faith can put them in very real jeopardy.
So, what's a mother to do?