There’s been a lot of hoo-hah in the press recently about what appears to be a surge in kids’ books aimed at young Muslims.
And rightly so: in an era when Muslims are sometimes given a raw deal in the press, with our faith being aligned with extremism or violence, it’s evident that the world – and more importantly, young people – need positive stories to counter some of the negativity.
Children are, of course, the future. Our future. They are the ones who are learning about the world as they emerge from toddlerhood, absorbing what they see and hear at an incredible rate (ask any parent!). They need to read and see beautiful stories, as we all do. Books can entertain, excite and inspire. The good thing about the new ones hitting the market is that they feature Muslim characters and speak directly to the reader.
They can help inform and shape our character, even help young people create an identity, something they can relate to and at least in part base themselves upon.
You know that here at LMYF we’re all about helping young people achieve the best future possible for both themselves and our communities, so the influx of books telling positive stories for Muslim children is a welcome thing. And, you know, in the vain of the Harry Potter series of books, we’re not totally against the idea of young adults reading kids’ books now and again!
One of the most recent ones to hit the shelves is by Mexican-American writer Mark Gonzalez, whose book ‘Yo Soy Muslim: A father’s letter to his daughter’ is, as the title suggests, dedicated it to his real-life daughter, Sirat. It’s an illustration-led book, which includes the words: “Dear little one, know you are wondrous, a child of crescent moons, a builder of mosques, a descendant of brilliance, an ancestor in training…”
Gonzalez says his book focuses on how to navigate a world where you experience the love of family and friends in your early years but are then challenged with finding your identity, your place in the world. The message is from a parent who encourages their child to find joy and pride in all aspects of their multicultural identity.
We might have something in our eye already…
Another which caught our attention is the just-published ‘Salam Alaikum’ by the London-based British-Muslim singer and artist Harris J, who describes himself as ‘a proud Muslim and a true Brit’. Mr J says he’s “spreading love, peace and happiness” with his new children’s book, and we can’t see anything wrong with that.
The title, if you didn’t know already, is an Islamic greeting which means “Peace be upon you.” The story is a heart-warming tale of human kindness.
In the opening scene, a boy offers his umbrella to a young woman during a rainstorm, sparking a sequence of good deeds in a city park: that woman offers a balloon to a child, who then passes it to a scuffed-up skateboarder, who gives an apple to an elderly woman, and so on. All the while, a brigade led by the original boy is seen in the background toting materials to create a vibrant mural.
It’s cute stuff. But it’s also so much more than that: it’s offering young Muslim kids role models, identity, warmth and a sense of being true to who you are while doing good in the world.
It might sound corny, but we’re not worried about that. We want all young Muslims to feel good about themselves, take control of their lives and go out and achieve amazing things.