Congratulations on your open-mindedness toward Islam and Muslims. I think it’s terrific that your son has embraced Islam and you have accepted it, at least for the most part. That’s a lot more than most converts can say about their own families.
In terms of the people at the mosque telling your son to talk to you about Islam, I think that’s a natural element of the religion, as it is a religion of invitation that is truly for all people. As such, Muslims are frequently eager to invite everyone and anyone to it. As for compulsion, however, there is certainly no such thing in Islam as compelling people to accept the religion. The Qur’an says this with the utmost clarity:
“Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth stands out clear from error” (Al-Baqarah 2:256)
As such, if you feel that people are “pushing” Islam on you through your son, simply show him or them this verse of the Qur’an and respectfully ask him or them not to discuss the religion in such a way, for it makes you uncomfortable and you feel as though they are forcing their religion on you. I think a respectful discussion that honors each side’s feelings and positions can easily clear this issue up.
Respect Each Other
As a convert to Islam myself who has non-Muslim parents, I can tell you that there don’t have to be any major problems between you and your son in regard to faith, as long as each respects the other’s faith and traditions and each party is clear as to what makes them uncomfortable, why, etc. In such a situation, however, I urge you to allow for you and your son to communicate openly, not so much so that he can preach Islam to you but to preserve your father-son bond and relationship.
Given the changes your son has and will undergo most likely, communication will be a critical issue and you must find ways, to be honest and open with each other. If that means that your son at times feels the need to express something to you that has to do with his faith, then I think you should try to be open to that, not so much because you are open to converting to Islam but because he is your son, nonetheless, in the same way, that Islam teaches him as your child to accept you as his parent regardless of your faith.
I strongly urge you to also continue your tolerance of your son’s faith decision. It sets a wonderful example for parents with convert children everywhere and, God willing, it will someday be an example of how the love and respect between parents and children can overcome differences in faith. However, mutual respect in terms of faith is always required, which necessitates difficult at times, patience, self-education, and other things.
Being Tolerant Is a Plus
It is not easy, certainly, but as long as you have the true intention to allow your son to practice his faith freely and your son respects your decision to not embrace the faith, God willing, you can avoid any major problems.
It is truly a shame that your affiliation with Muslims has caused you problems with your business clients. Unfortunately, not everyone has the same level of open-mindedness and tolerance as you do and Islamaphobia appears to be at an all-time high. Nevertheless, if you really feel that such acquaintances are hampering your life or business, as it is your home, you have the right to tell your son not to have his friends over to your house.
I would suggest, however, that you offer him an alternative so as to not make it clear that you are not telling him that he cannot associate with his friends from the mosque.
I’m not sure what kind of alternative you as his father can offer an 11-year-old boy to interact with friends, unless he does it away from the home. Depending on how comfortable you are with that as a parent, you’ll have to decide. However, please know that to prevent him from interacting with other Muslims will only cause much resentment toward you and will most probably do much harm to your relationship. On the other hand, you have a right as a parent to know what kind of people your son (who is only 11) associates with. For me, if I were in your shoes, I would welcome his friends to your home and get to know them as much as possible for three reasons:
1. to show your son that you have an interest in his life and who he spends his time with, which is very important for father-son relations;
2. to give him the confidence and reassurance that you are still his father and you care about him and who he hangs out with; and
3. to make sure that the people he is spending time with are not negatively influencing him, in the same way that any caring parent would. I guess, however, you have to decide how much your son is worth to you, for according to your post, to allow your son’s friends into your home is having a negative impact on your business. But your son is your son and you should also be concerned about his welfare. You have to decide.
One more thing you might want to do is help your son use this situation as a motivation to be a good example for Muslims. For example, I am wondering if you have had any discussions with him pertaining to the issue of Islamaphobia and why some people—unlike yourself, of course—have such negative views of Muslims. Perhaps such a conversation can motivate him to truly live according to the highest ideals of the faith and be a model for Islam. With your tolerance of the faith as well, this can greatly help him achieve this goal.
Teaching Is Not Preaching
Lastly, it might help greatly if you approach your son’s attempts to teach you Islam as nothing more than a learning and educational opportunity rather than a threat of some kind. When we accept things rather than fight with them, psychologically, it’s disarming—meaning that that very thing we feared loses all its power over us. As such, if you continue to struggle against learning about Islam, it only will create friction, tension, and unnecessary angst in your home. Rather, even though you may not desire to convert to Islam, the more you learn about it willingly via your son, the less power it will have over you, i.e., the less trouble it can cause you psychologically and emotionally.
Look at it as an opportunity to learn about another faith tradition. You may even learn things that can enrich your own life in some small way. At the very least, it will prevent frustration and friction in your life and your relationship with your son. Finally, what you learn may be important for addressing the concerns of your business clients by clearing up misconceptions and prejudices.
Please feel free to write us again if you have any follow-up questions or concerns.
All the best.
Disclaimer: The conceptualization and recommendations stated in this response are very general and purely based on the limited information that was provided in the question. In no event shall AboutIslam, it’s volunteers, writers, scholars, counselors, or employees be held liable for any direct, indirect, exemplary, punitive, consequential or other damages whatsoever that may arise through your decision or action in the use of the services which our website provides.
(From Ask About Parenting archives)