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From left: Guest, Sh. Ali & Sr. Tahira, Action Board
On November 7th, 2015, we held a domestic violence workshop at the 11th Annual IONA Convention held at Cobo Hall here in Detroit. Presenting was our Director Sheikh Ali Suleiman Ali and our head counselor Sr. Tahira Khalid MSW. The workshop was centered around the myths of domestic violence. I will highlight some of those myths and discuss why they are indeed myths.
Women in abusive relationships can leave if they wanted to. Not always. This myth places full blame on the woman in assumption that she could easily get out of a bad relationship anytime she wanted to. Many of these women are tied to their abusers financially, through their children or living arrangements. Additionally, some men may threaten a woman using all of the above and more as bargaining chips. If you think about it, how difficult would it be to escape a relationship with a man who threatens to keep her kids if she leaves? Leaving is easier said than done for most situations but it is recommended.
Domestic violence only occurs in poor, urban areas. Women of all races, ages, socioeconomic status and cultures are victims of domestic violence. It is frankly foolish to believe that only poor people face it. Too many of our well to do neighbors are beating their wives in secret and public. Wealth does not wash away bad character.
Battering is caused by drugs and alcohol. There are batterers who do not use substances. Though drugs and alcohol use are often times variables, the two must be treated as separate factors because one does not necessarily confirm the other.
Husbands and wives are equally violent. According to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, 95% of domestic violence victims are women being abused by their male partners. Though male domestic violence victims are not very common (at a 35% rate), these victims are usually in homesexual relationships. There is no evidence that female batterers are as prevalent as males.
Once a batterer, always a batterer. According to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program, domestic violence crimes met with strong criminal charges can affect a batterer’s decision to abuse again. Through counseling, anger management classes and other social enrichment resources, batterers can learn to rechannel anger and change for the better.
With this vital information presented by our counselor Sr. Tahira, we can began to look at domestic violence in a new light. Sheikh Ali Suleiman Ali offered the Islamic perspective on abuse in Islam quoting our prophet Muhammad (pbuh) saying:
“He who believes in Allah and the Hereafter, if he witnesses any matter he should talk in good terms about it or keep quiet. Act kindly towards woman, for woman is created from a rib, and the most crooked part of the rib is its top. If you attempt to straighten it, you will break it, and if you leave it, its crookedness will remain there. So act kindly towards women.“(Translation of Sahih Muslim, The Book of Marriage (Kitab Al-Nikah), Book 008, Number 3468)
This hadith makes it crystal clear that abuse of wives or women under a man’s care is prohibited. Islam does not condone abuse of any human being who has harmed no one. If we know anyone being abused by their spouse, we should try to help them into a safe space where they feel comfortable sorting things out and regaining control of their lives. No action warrants the oppression of another human being.
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From right: Mona Youssef (Juvenille Court Referee), Dr. Sameena Zahoor (Domestic Foster Parent), Ranya Shbeib (Refugee Foster Parent), Diane Baird (Program Manager, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan)
On Sunday November 8th, Muslim Family Services hosted a foster care panel presentation at the 11th Annual IONA Convention. On the panel was Mona Youssef (Juvenille Court Referee), Dr. Sameena Zahoor (Domestic Foster Parent), Ranya Shbeib (Refugee Foster Parent), Diane Baird (Program Manager, Lutheran Social Services of Michigan) . Our foster care initiative aims to educate the Michigan Muslim community about the need for licensed Muslim foster homes. Currently, there is only 1 licensed Muslim refugee foster home in the state of Michigan. Alhamdulilah, the number of licensed Muslim domestic foster homes in Michigan is breaking into the teens in number. Slowly but surely inshAllah, those numbers will grow.
The domestic and refugee foster mothers talked about the process of getting their foster children acclimated into their homes. Many foster children have faced trauma in some form; whether that be physical, emotional or mental. They have been displaced and removed from the only home that they have ever known to wait in queue for stability again. Most of the time, that stability never comes. Too many of these children ‘age out’ in the system by turning 18 becoming legal adults. Our panelist all urged families to help combat this by getting involved with foster youth.
Since our foster care initiative began roughly 4 years ago, MFS has been dedicated to serving in our role as the liaisons between the foster care system and the Muslim community. Our goal is to educate the Muslim community about foster care and increase the amount of licensed Muslim foster homes. This way, when any child needs a home, Muslim or non-Muslim, there is a loving and warm one waiting with open arms. What many do not realize is that as Muslims, we can do a great deal of good by sheltering youth of all faiths. We possess excellent values and morality that could benefit all people.
We recently had the pleasure of hosting a couple of foster care information sessions outside of Southeastern Michigan. These events were held at:
The Islamic Center of Greater Lansing
Flint Islamic Center
We also attended meetings with agencies in Kalamazoo and Detroit, MI with local agencies like Bethany Christian Services and Lutheran Social Services of Michigan who offer dual licensure in both domestic and refugee foster care. On Monday November 2nd, 2015, MFS joined local organizations such as: Zaman International, Syrian American Rescue Network (SARN) and Michigan Muslim Community Council (MMCC) to join in promoting refugee foster care and discuss the services that we would like to offer refugee families.
We pray that Allah (swt) blesses us to continue this necessary work.
If you are a Muslim family in the state of Michigan interested in learning more about becoming foster parents, mentors or respite care providers, please contact Muslim Family services to be invited to our next orientation.
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Last weekend, November 13th-14th, Muslim Family Services had the pleasure of bringing Dr. Leonard Sax M.D, PhD., to Michigan to offer two of his workshops on Social Media and and Video Game usage in our homes. The session "Instagram is Eating My Daughter and My Son Won't Stop Playing Video Games" was offered for the parents and “Social Media and Video Games: What Do You Think? A Conversation" was offered for youth. Both workshops offered a comprehensive look at the world of social media and video games challenging guest to think about the way these mediums are used in their homes.
We partnered with three local Masajid who hosted the sessions: Muslim Community of Western Suburbs (MCWS), Islamic Association of Greater Detroit (IAGD), and Tawheed Center. The MCWS session was hosted on the evening of Friday November 13th, 2015. Approximately 450 total youth and adults showed to converse with Dr. Sax about the proper usage of social media & video games. Next up was IAGD for a morning session Saturday November 14th, 2015. Lastly, Tawheed Center hosted the closing session for the workshop series on Saturday evening. Each community held both the youth and parent only sessions with Dr. Sax. I will briefly cover some of the highlights and tips that Dr. Sax presented for both the youth and parent sessions.
The youth sessions were designed to be less of a lecture and more of a conversation between the youth and Dr. Sax. No parents were allowed in order to offer youth a ‘safe space’ to open up about the the ways that they and their peers use various entertainment mediums. To start off, Dr. Sax presented research findings related to the ways boys and girls are using Instagram and Facebook and games like Grand Theft Auto (GTA) and Halo. Firstly, youth are accessing social media at a younger age than they were allowed to 5 years ago. During the inception of Facebook, users had to have a ‘.edu’ email address just to sign up which meant that it was initially designed for an older crowd of college aged kids. However, with the growing popularity of the mega network and many others like it, youth of much younger ages have gained access; sometimes by lying about their age.
Youth Sessions at MCWS (bottom), Tawheed Center (top left) and IAGD (top middle)
Secondly, the content that youth are posting has become increasingly lewd and indecent. We live in a society in which ‘sex sells’ and youth are not immune to that phenomena. In order to keep up with popular culture, there is much peer pressure to show more and know more about pop culture. Our Muslim youth are exposed to this as well. It is a blessing that most have a moral upbringing but acting as though such dangers don’t apply to our children is a form of inaction. Dr. Sax repeatedly reminded youth that less social media and gaming is better. He asked for a show of hands for how many youth used social media within that week. Hands shot up all around the room. Then, he asked how many youth wrote in their diary that week (if they even had one), only a handful had. Thus was his point that social media and popular gaming softwares are beating out vital mediums for growth like diaries and face-to-face conversations/interactions.
The parent session touched on more graphic dangers that youth are facing and offered parents a few tips on how to combat such dangers. The new craze of ‘sexting was discussed in detail informing parents that youth are now sending nude and scantily clad pictures to their boyfriends and girlfriends via smartphones and apps like snapchat. A graphic picture of a teenage girl in a bikini with a tiny crop top on taking a selfie was briefly displayed. The audience, who were briefed beforehand, looked away in disbelief that such a picture is not legally considered pornography by the government. Such photos are becoming an increasingly popular way for girls to become popular and gain friends and a boyfriend in school.
Dr. Sax gave his opinion that no child under the age of 13 should own a smartphone and went on to add that no youth under 13 should own an iPhone specifically. Dr. Sax said that most 13 year olds aren't even ready to properly use smartphones as it is. He recommended an app that parents can install on their child’s phone that forwards all pictures sent and received by their youth directly to their own cell phones for approval. This way, parents can see the pictures that their youth are exposed to and combat child pornography and pronography addiction. The app is called "My Mobile Watchdog" which is a parental control tool. This app is not compatible with iPhones or apple devices in general.
Dr. Sax also gave a few tips:
No cells phones after 9 pm. Youth and adults should limit their use of cell phones at night. Other activities should be encouraged instead such as writing, reading, board games or simply ‘catching up’ with family are all viable alternatives. He encouraged parents to take their children’s phones and charge them inside of their master bedroom. This way, kids will get a full night sleep and be more productive.
ONLY you can parent your child. A Parent’s job is to parent; not to be their child’s friend. Of Course, all parents should aim to have a good relationship with their youth but under no circumstance is it our job to give in to their demands. Since they are living in your home, you have the final say as to how they spend majority of their time. Parents can actually become enablers to negative behaviors concerning social media and gaming by not enforcing the rules.
Download My Mobile Watchdog App. Parents should download this app on their youth’s smartphones ASAP and put an administrator password on the app so that the youth cannot uninstall it.
Communicate and Be Aware. How can a parent protect their youth from potential harms via social media and video games if they themselves are not aware of them. Reading blogs and news to stay current on trends in these platforms and in schools will help parents be one step ahead. Explain that you are trying to protect your youth and don’t give in. Your youth will probably dislike you for a while but, they will thank you later.
Lastly, in regards to video games, Dr. Sax ask that parents avoid buying games like GTA and Halo. Both games encourage violence and indecency with many options to kill, commit crimes and sleep with prostitutes in order to get ahead in the game. Dr. Sax described a portion of GTA in which the player can buy services from a prostitute and is offered extra points if he kills her afterwards and takes his money back. This is currently the most popular game in the United States according to sales! Dr. Sax recommends alternative games such as sports games on wii and other systems.
Adult Sessions (left), Tawheed Center (top middle-right column), IAGD (bottom middle)
In conclusion, both workshops were very informative and necessary for all parents of elementary up to high school kids. MFS sold out of two of Dr. Sax’s books: “Boy’s Adrift” and “Girls on the Edge”. Parents purchased autographed copies of these books. We would like to thank Dr. Sax for the vital information that he offered our community and recommend other communities to host one or more of Dr. Sax’s workshops.
Guest getting their autographed copies of books
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We recently had the pleasure of hosting a phenomenal workshop entitled “Drugs 101: What Parents Need to Know” by St. Joseph Mercy Hospital from October throughout the first week of November in 3 Michigan locations. The two hour, parent only workshop is designed to educate parents about the signs, symptoms and current trends of teen drug use. A highlight of this program is a mock teenager's bedroom set up for adults to observe and attempt to identify the obvious and not-so-obvious drug related paraphernalia.
We held the workshop in 3 locations in the Southeastern Michigan area. Parents, youth directors, school teachers, siblings and young adults joined us in learning about the ever changing drug trends. Many of the guest thought that they knew a lot about the subject but admitted later that they truly only knew about 20-40% of the information presented. The innovations in the drug industry both legal and illegal is not something that we can ignore. Doing so could be fatal.
Our youth are exposed to a variety of drugs concocted to give whatever sensation desired. If someone wants to feel drunk, there is a drug for that. If they want to feel alert, there is a drug for that. If they want to feel out-of-mind, there is a drug for that. The workshop challenged every adult to pay attention to signs that our loved ones may display if they are potentially using. Guest were asked to examine the mock bedroom and indicate any potential drugs observed.
Many of the guest identified items like, cigarettes, blunts, pills, and alcohol bottles as drugs used to get high. However, items like balloons, coca cola cans, cough syrup, hard candies and highlighter markers were often overlooked. All of these items are being used in combination with others to get high. The issue of storage also came up. Fluffed pillows, soda cans, markers, backpacks and even mattresses are being altered to double as storage for a drug users’ stash.
When I asked some of the guest why they attended, some said:
"I feel a loved one may be using and I need to know what to look for"
" I am a teacher concerned about the dangers my students are facing"
Practical tips were offered by the hospital in order to stay alert about drug use in our homes. I will share three of those tips below.
1.Talk to your youth.
Too many times, parents may try to be the ‘cool parent’ to their kids by not ‘getting into their business’. However know that, at that age, their business is your business. Parents should make it a habit to REALLY talk to their children about what is going on in their lives; ask them to narrate a day in their life to you. Sure, they could lie to you about their day but in time, when they see your genuine interest in their life, they will trust you more and consequently open up more, inshAllah.
2.Know their circles.
It is not enough to know that your youth is out with a friend. An active parent should know the names of their children’s friends and introduce themselves to their parents. This establishes a dual trust between both sets of parents/caregivers letting them know that both sides will do their part to ensure the safety of their youth while guest at their residence.
3.Secure all medication.
Drugs, whether over the counter or prescription, should not be kept in easily accessible locations such as medicine cabinets in the bathroom or closet for all to partake in. Parents, as the guardians of the home, should be aware of all medications in the home and oversee the usage of these drugs as much as possible. The hospital recommends that the medicine cabinet be moved into the parents room so that youth will not have easy access. Additionally, the police recommend that parents discard all expired medication from the home. There are two ways to properly do this:
1. Disguise the medication by wrapping it up in bags, putting it in container and throwing it into the trash.
2. Gathering these medications are dropping them off at your local police or fire station for them to discard.
All of these tips are wonderfully sound suggestions that any parent or guardian should implement immediately. The dangers that are lurking around our youth are not slowing down and neither should we. As Muslims, we must be active in enjoining the good and forbidding the evil. InshAllah, with workshops like ‘Drugs 101”, we can continue the fight.
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He stressed so much about the event and made it mandatory for the audience to attend and said "consider as if you are coming for prayers and taking the first row".
1) If your kids are playing Grand Theft Auto, Call of Duty, and Halo. Get rid of them immediately! And ensure they don't play such games at their friends homes either.
2) If you are on the board of any mosque/community center, you MUST invite Dr. Sax for an all day presentation at your mosque".