Disclaimer: The event held at ISNA Canada last week was not an ISNA event, it was an initiative taken by the community to help shed light on an important concern for the Muslims living in Ontario.
What could possibly be “new” about the birds and the bees? Unless of course we’re talking about teaching it to our children at school. If there’s one thing I learned at the sex ed forum held by the community at ISNA last Friday, it was that as parents, we need to be educated before the schools try to educate our kids. The turnout at the event spoke highly of the Muslim concern towards their children’s health education, and I couldn’t have been happier to see the incredible number of people who showed up on a cold weeknight to get a chance to have their questions answered. Except the problem is, there weren’t any real answers.
Just as politics goes, we got a lot of blurry, inconclusive details given to us, but no real solution. It was almost like a show that was put on to pacify us into thinking that our voices were being heard. Truth is, the new curriculum is well under way to be implemented and it looks like nothing can stop this speeding train. Now we all have to decide how to manage the outcome to the best of our abilities. Despite sitting through mediocre explanations, the only good thing to come out of the event was the opportunity to see real concern from the Muslim community. It was evident that the hall was full of parents who really love their children and are deeply concerned about how to handle the storm ahead.
So the issue here is twofold, on one hand, our children are being taught sexuality during health class, and on the other hand they are being told of homosexuality and diversity in relationships and families. Both of these are difficult conversations for Muslim parents to have at home, maybe even a little impossible. We’d rather have our teeth pulled before we have a candid conversation about sex in our homes. It’s a surprise we even reproduce at such a rate! So instead of playing a more involved and active role, we decide that if we make enough noise now we’ll be able to avoid talking about sex and homosexuality all together.
Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of bad news and tell you it isn’t so. We need to have the tough conversations this time, because there’s nothing to hide behind any more. But fortunately, it won’t be an ambush like last year. After the debacle on Pink Day, the Muslims in the GTA were outraged at how carelessly schools spoke to the kids about something so unknown to them. Parents were in uproar and everyone was frantically trying to figure out how to do damage control, where on the other hand, the schools nonchalantly said that this was all a part of being “Canadian” and accepting diversity.
I’m all for the diversity. After all, we’re also a minority here, and just as much as we want others to respect us as Muslims and value our beliefs, the catch twenty two is that we have to reciprocate that respect. We live in a complicated time, where our greatest challenge is to balance our lives between religious values and cultural exposure. It would be naïve to turn a blind eye and pretend our kids are not part of the main stream mess. The dating, the sex, the drinking and drugs all exist for the Muslim kids too. The only difference is that we don’t talk about it at home and our kids become great at keeping secrets.
I know it’s not easy to accept any of this. I get that. I understand everyone’s concern, I am a parent and I’m concerned too. But we have to stop pretending that our children are not affected. With current curriculum changes I have two choices, I can hide behind my worry, or I can strengthen my children through this experience. I choose the latter. This will be a moment of empowerment for me and my family. We chose to live in Canada, and we chose to send our kids to public school, and because of these choices we need to have those uncomfortable conversations that will help our children understand how to balance their lives as Muslims living in Canada. This may even open up the prospect to a new and more open relationship dynamic within Muslim families.
Before you decide to run in panic, there’s good news. None of us are in this alone. We’re all facing the same challenges and the best way to get through difficulty is to rely on each other. The conversation has already started, now let’s make it more relevant. We already know that there is a problem that lies ahead, it’s time to work out real solutions. There are active steps we can take right away to ensure our children are not thrown in the deep end of this. Click here for a Quick Guide to Coping with the New Curriculum.
ISNA Canada would like to take on the responsibility to facilitate what our community needs. After you’ve read this article, vote on this page and tell us how we should help our community on this issue. Should we host a series of workshops with professionals who can give us a step by step plan on how to handle the upcoming school year? Should we ask the imams at our masjids to educate the congregation on what to expect? Should we write more articles to help you come up with an action plan? You get to decide, tell us what you need and we’ll activate the resources to get the job done!
Let’s build a better environment for our kids, starting at home.