“Mamma, are Muslims bad?”
“Why? Why are you asking me this question? Who told you all this nonsense?”
“So-and-so told me that her mother has told her not to talk to this particular boy in our class because he is a Muslim and they are not good. She has also asked him not to share food that the boy offers.”
“What do you think? Is that boy in your class bad? Does he harm you or anyone else in the class?”
“No. He is a good boy. Ma’am also likes him. He is a polite boy. He like to play with everyone.”
“What does that tell you? Is he good or bad?”
“He is a good boy.”
“Exactly. You already know what is right and wrong. I have also told you that your right may not be right for others. So don’t judge anyone by what you have heard from someone else. Try and learn to answer that question yourself based on your interaction with the person and what you know about that person. Nobody is perfect. We all have flaws. We all make mistakes. That does not mean that we are all perfectly right or perfectly wrong. Do you get this?”
“Yes. I understood.”
“Will you play with him? Will you share your things with him if he needs them?”
“Yes. I will.”
This was a conversation I had with my EIGHT-YEAR-OLD a few days ago. Ever since I have been thinking about it and feeling extremely annoyed about how a parent was misleading their child against another innocent child.
Why the hell do we have to drag young and innocent minds into this dirty mess of religion, region, politics, racism, caste and gender?
Why can’t we let them be themselves?
Why can’t we let them develop their own perceptions on different aspects of life?
Why do we have to brainwash them?
As a mother I do understand the fears and worries of another mother. I myself do warn the girls about impending dangers from strangers. I warn them to be careful with people they know as well as people they do not know. But I have never told them to boycott another child because he was a bully, or because she was dark, or because he was from a certain community, or because she was from a family that supported a certain political party. What are we doing? Is there an end to this?
I know it was a personal decision of that mother and may be of their family but it left me fuming because I don’t like children being involved in these petty matters. We complain of young minds being radicalized or being brainwashed. What was this? If we continue to drag them into these, why should we complain about others?
I don’t support any such nonsense. If we really want to protect our children, we must teach them love, kindness, sharing, compassion and being sensitive towards others. We must teach them not to hurt others. We must teach them to respect another’s feelings and their properties. We must teach them to not bully others. We must equip them with wisdom to make out good from bad and right from wrong. Encourage them to use their logic to reach conclusions based on their experiences instead of forcing your own experiences on them. How can you proudly tell your child that a certain boy in the class is not good because he is a Muslim while you encourage your child when he tells you how he managed to knock down another child in the school?