By Rose Hamid, Guest Column, Charlotte Observer
Seeing someone eating Girl Scout cookies makes me happy. Seeing Girl Scouts selling them makes me even happier.
I was a Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop from the time she was in first grade until she graduated high school, so I have an affinity for Girl Scout cookies and the Girl Scout organization. Girls learn a lot when selling cookies, including self-confidence, marketing, public speaking skills, money management and a slew of other skills. As Muslim Girl Scouts, my troop and I benefited in other ways as well. …
I started both a Girl and Boy Scout troop in 1995 at the Islamic center where my children attended weekend Islamic school. I wanted my children to build camaraderie with their fellow Muslims while also engaging with people of other faiths and backgrounds. I wanted them to learn that being a Muslim living in America didn’t mean they had to choose one identity over the other.
I was surprised that as I introduced the idea of scouting to the Muslim community I met with some resistance. Muslims living in America have ethnicities from all over the world. Many are born in the USA, but some are immigrants. As with any immigrant group, many of its members are concerned with the loss of culture/heritage. While some describe America as a melting pot, it’s important to recognize that many immigrants fear the fire of that pot. They fear becoming homogenized into a generic entity. However, America is more of a stew or a salad where each ingredient adds to the flavor of the dish and enhances the whole.
The Scouting program exists in many forms around the world, but its roots are in the program started by Lord Baden-Powell in the UK in 1911. In some countries indigenous populations see Scouting as an entity that came from the “colonizing” power, either through missionary groups or at times through the military. This history sometimes left negative impressions with which I had to work in order to help community members understand that the Scouting program is in harmony with Islamic ideals.
The Girl Scout promise states: “On my honor, I will try: To serve God and my country, To help people at all times, And to live by the Girl Scout Law.”
The Girl Scout Law states: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
An example of these ideals in Islamic doctrine is the following verse from the Quran: “You are the best of people ever raised for the good of mankind because you have been raised to serve others: you enjoin what is good and forbid what is evil and believe in God.” 3:110
By all measures, being a Girl Scout makes a young woman a better Muslim, and being a Muslim makes her a better Girl Scout. The girls were able to maintain and strengthen their identity as Muslims while also interacting with others from all over the county and building a sisterhood with Girl Scouts and Girl Guides all over the world. The girls learned that one can be different from others while adding flavor to the salad/stew that makes America great.
Rose Hamid of Charlotte is president of Muslim Women of the Carolinas