My mother was born in the City of Tacoma. My father was born in Chicago. We ended up moving to the hilltop area in the early nineties and got involved in Islam and decided to convert as a family.
I was eight or nine years old I recall being in the fourth grade when we decided to convert but… It was tough, I mean, because on the surface you look like a lot of your peers a lot of your classmates and things like that… Four or five years and then the next year, you come back with a cap on your head!
I used to wear a cap called the Kufi, and then my sister used to wear a Hijab when she went to school. And so kids were like, “what’s going on with you guys?”
So there’s a lot of explaining, a lot of defending that we had to do.
I think when we first started practicing Islam, my parents for a few years, were pretty rough on us, you know. I mean, to the point where Doritos might have had pork, you know, and because they may have pork, don’t eat them. And I would sneak Doritos all day because I love Doritos. It was tough… you can’t take Doritos? You can’t take Doritos from a kid, right?
I think that was just even part of their learning, you know, we were learning together as a family.
What we’ve come to know, is visibly, Muslim is someone that looks like they’re from the Middle East, but our thought was that I’m visibly Muslim by seeing a woman wearing a Hijab, or, in my case, a man wearing a Kufi.
And, you know, Monday to Friday I wore that Kufi in school. But on Saturdays when it was time to kick it, and for those who didn’t know me, the Kufi was off, and right there was my challenge, I guess the crossroads of being still a young black man, a teenager, wanting to have fun, and wanting to not be thought of as this intellectual deep guy that shouldn’t be doing this, that, or the other and just wanted to be a kid just like you or anybody else.
For African-American folks that are Muslim, we’re little more scattered, so there’s not a community if you will. There have been times over the years where there’s been communities that have been started, but for whatever reason folks chose to go their own ways.
Raising Kids Islamically
We, rather, are a part of the Islamic community as a whole.
So the agreement that we had was that our kids would be raised Muslim.
When I was growing up, it seems like things were introduced a little slower. But with the news and media, my son said:
“Hey dad, are we Al-Qaeda!?”
I said: “No.”
So now I’m forced to explain, you know, what Al-Qaeda is:
“Well, these guys are Muslims and, you know, they’re bad people.”
“Why are we Muslims then?”
We’ve had that conversation.
My approach with raising the kids Islamically is to do it softly, and enjoy it.
Religion shouldn’t be punitive, I mean, it should have peace in it. You should enjoy it. You should smile when you think about it. And that’s the way that I practice Islam, and the kids are able to see that, and hopefully, they’ll see that and pick up on it and want to continue.