Bismillah, as salaam ‘alaikum!
So I commute a lot. Every once in awhile I witness the loud manifestations of young adults in junior high or high school on the train. Sometimes, I laugh in my head at the things I hear. Other times, I just shake my head and wonder what this world is coming to. Nothing I see or hear ever compels me to action.
Take the good and leave the bad, I say.
Well… a sister was on the train just yesterday when she witnessed a group of co-eds bullying/sexually harassing a kid who looked like he could be a South-Asian Muslim.
They took his hat from him, threw it back and forth, until one of the girls caught it and wouldn’t give it to him. He was clearly uncomfortable with the inappropriate touching and blowing kisses, but he laughed uneasily along with their taunts anyway. He pleaded with her, trying to bring the focus back to his hat. Eventually it got to the point where he was upset and had to move far from the group.. twice. One of the boys in the group would still go up to him, talk to him, then come back to the group making fun of him for being a prude.
How many young Muslim boys in his situation might have reacted differently, acting on the taunts and participating in vulgar activities instead of running away from them? My heart broke thinking, with the lens of hindsight of the typical high school experience, how this good kid will be stuck in a group of friends later on in life that he, because of peer pressure at this age, might just accept as American and normal. It really saddens me to see young kids, especially young Muslim kids, in this hyper-sexualized society having to deal with their peers, who, for more or less, have not learned any sense of morality or value for their own well being. But even many conservative, non-Muslim Americans feel the same way about the growing sexualization of our youth.
The underlying societal issues aside, what of the bullying? It must have been really uneasy watching the kid get picked on over and over again, even when he had moved away from the group several times. Eventually the sister walked across the train car to where he was sitting in hopes of giving him some friendly advice and a show of support (with the intention of doing it in the coolest, most un-embarrassing way possible, of course!).
As soon as she uttered her first few words, the four or five kids from his group shuffled over to tease him again, continuing their vulgar taunts. So she had enough and just gave them all a polite, mini-lecture on sexual harassment and bullying. They all got off at the next stop and just before leaving, the sister apologized because she didn’t want to embarrass him. The young man, surprisingly, thanked her.
Did the bullies learn anything from the sister? With the eye-rolling one of the girls was giving her, we can’t really know for sure. At least the sister didn’t just sit there and watch…
Some discussion points:
1. Should the sister have intervened? How would you have dealt with the situation differently?
2. Are you a Muslim teenager, or do you have teenage siblings/cousins, going through similar situations? How do you handle being bullied and/or being sexually harassed while balancing your deen?
3. How do we instill a sense of self-worth and confidence in the young adults of our ummah?
Comment below insha’Allah!
(Part Two: The Etiquette’s of Not Minding Your Own Beeswax… coming soon!)