US Muslim Girls Find Solace in Scouting

Young Muslim girls are increasingly joining Girl Scout troops in the US to help bring them closer to the mainstream culture and avoid scrutinizing looks.

US Muslim Girls Find Solace in Scouting

"It is kind of cool to say that you are a girl scout," Asma Haidara, a 12-year-old Somali immigrant, told the New York Times on Wednesday, November 28.

"It is good to have something to associate yourself with other Americans."

Haidara was used to scrutinizing looks about her dress code, a long skirt over pants and a swirling hijab.

The trademark scouting green sash — with its American flag, troop number (3009) and colorful merit badges, has made quite a difference in how people treat her.

"When you say you are a girl scout, they say, 'Oh, my daughter is a girl scout, too,' and then they don't think of you as a person from another planet," noted the girl.

"They are more comfortable about sitting next to me on the train."

There is no exact number of the Muslim girls in scout troops across the US.

But in Minneapolis, where Haidara lives, some 280 Muslim girls have enrolled in about 10 predominantly Muslim scout troops.

"I don't want them to see themselves as Muslim girls doing this 'Look at us, we are trying to be American,' " said Farheen Hakeem, one troop leader.

"No, no, no, they are American. It is not an issue of trying."

Scouting is a way of celebrating being American without being any less Muslim, maintains Ms. Hakeem, a former Green Party candidate for mayor.

There are between six to seven million Muslims in the United States, making up less than three percent of the country's 300 million population.

Ever since the terrorist 9/11 attacks, many American Muslims have been complaining of discrimination and stereotyping because of their Islamic attires or identity.

Islam-friendly

Muslims women trying to organize Girl Scout troops in Muslim communities sometimes face resistance from parents concerned that this might dilute Islamic traditions.

"They are afraid you are going to become a blue-eyed, blond-haired Barbie doll," said Haidara, the 12-year-old girl.

Her mother had asked whether she was joining some Christian cabal.

"She was afraid that if we hang out with Americans too much…it will change our culture or who we are."

The Girl Scouts' national body, Girl Scouts of the USA, has become flexible in recent years about the old traditions associated originally with Christian scouting.

Many troops have dropped traditions like saying grace before dinner at camp. Even the Girl Scout Promise can be modified to accommodate Muslim kids.

"On my honor I will try to serve Allah and my country, to help people and live by the Girl Scout law," was the Girl Scout Promise recited by eight girls when they recently joined Haidara's predominantly Muslim Troop 3119.

Scouting leaders are also trying to combine activities with Muslim traditions and culture.

Ms. Hakeem has helped her girls develop the Khadija Club, named after the first wife of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).

The Club orients the girls with the history of prominent Muslim women.

Suboohi Khan, 10, earned the ribbon of Bismallah (Arabic for in the name of God) by writing 4 of Allah's 99 names in Arabic calligraphy and decorating them and memorizing few verses from the holy Qur'an.

Predominantly Muslim scout troops are attracting non-Muslims as well.

"Other girls think that it is weird that I am Christian and hang out with a bunch of Muslim girls," said Alexis Eastlund, 10.

"I explain to them that they are the same except they have to wear a hijab on their heads."


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Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Kasım 2007, 12:05
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