Talking to kids about Islam

I live in a community where there are a reasonably large number of Muslims. My daughter has asked questions about why women wear head scarves, for example. Any suggestions on how to do so in a manner that is both respectful and faithful to the Catholic faith?

Why not just explain the Muslim explanation?

“Women do this because in their Religion/Culture it’s considered modest to cover up.”

That’s not even remotely the hardest or most sensitive question about Islam a kid is going to ask before it’s all said and done. Just tell her that Muslim women cover their hair for modesty’s sake.

I’ve struggled to explain to my child why we can’t/don’t attend particular non-Catholic Christian churches that we regularly drive by, so I understand what you’re asking. I usually settle for something like, “They worship Jesus differently than we do.” You could probably address many of your daughter’s questions in a similar manner, i.e., “They worship God differently than we do. They do this or that because they are trying to make God happy.” It’ll depend on how old she is, of course, and whether you want to get more specific, but my son is still young so I try to avoid deep theological responses.

I would try to tell them as accurately as possible the Islamic belief but always a qualification that it is wrong from the Christian perspective and then proceed to explain the Christian teaching on the topic. Children must be well taught of their belief even if they have to hear it a thousand times. Otherwise other religion that they are exposed to will make bigger impression on them and there is of course always the challenge of peer pressure and that children will likely want to listen to people other than their parents. But if parents pre-empty this by patiently explain to them the Christian perspective, those explanation will be there at the back of their mind and it will proved useful should they be challenged of their own faith anytime when they will be on their own.

Ummm…how about the plain truth? Why try to soft pedal it. Your explanation can leave a young person with the opinion that Islam is acceptable to God…equal to being Catholic.

My explanations are truthful. Muslims are trying to please God. That’s why they pray five times a day, make pilgrimmages, dress modestly. It’s not inaccurate to tell this to a child.

Because he’s 2.

I watched Barney and sesame street with my kids when they were 2.

It’s wrong from a Christian perspective for women to cover their hair? I accept the arguments that it’s not necessary, in spite of what St. Paul appears to say in 1 Corinthians. But how exactly can it be wrong?


I think he means to say that from a Christian perspective, it is wrong for women to be required to cover their hair. St. Paul did recommend wearing hair coverings for women while worshiping in Church, so there’s nothing wrong with doing so. The difference is that Muslim women are required to wear them whenever they are in public, and for a different reason than what St. Paul stated.

Christian women in some cultures have been required to do so. Perhaps this was wrong, in the sense that it was unduly restrictive on women, but it’s not clear to me that it was doctrinally wrong. It’s rather odd to suggest that a practice early Christians pretty uniformly followed is somehow un-Christian.

The Muslim reason is different from Paul’s insofar as Paul’s is Christological. But Paul’s reasons aren’t solely Christological. In fact, his odd reference to women covering their hair “because of the angels” is probably best illustrated by an Islamic story in which Muhammad’s wife Khadija uncovered her hair in front of the being who was appearing to Muhammad in order to test if he was really an angel. The angel vanished, which proved that he was a modest being and a true angel–a demon would have been filled with lust at the sight of a woman’s uncovered hair.


I highly doubt that St. Paul was referencing an Islamic story. I suspect the Islamic story was written well after Paul was preaching anyway.

Of course. My point was that the story illustrates the cultural attitudes that may be reflected in this cryptic statement by St. Paul.

Granted, that’s a risky claim given that half a millennium separated Paul and Muhammad. But that’s still less cultural distance than separates either of them from us!


Actually I was referencing to Islamic practices in general as compared to Christianity. There are many similarities yet while the principles in practicing them are right but the ways in how we are going about them are not the same. Two such practices are women covering up for modesty sake and another perhaps, fasting. Then there are prayers and so on. Nobody can argue against these but do Christians do them in the way Muslims do? Certainly not.

It is important to explain the differences in perspective especially to a young mind. My children, when they were young, also had Muslims as their classmates. The last thing I would want was for them to think that Islam/Muslims were better in the sense that they fast and cover their bodies strictly, faithfully and their actions in doing them were very visible to everybody. Young people being young people, there would be such a situation when bantering happened even if it was about religion, that “my dad is better than your dad,” simply because the other person’s dad is doing his things openly and for people to see.

Anyway, you ask a good question and hopefully it is answered.

I would just explain its a modesty thing. Of course when she is in school (ESP in a larger Muslim Community) they will teach the fundementals in World Culture’s Class. Its up to you if you want to teach her earlier. I think teaching kids about other faiths keeps them educated. :slight_smile:

Hope this helps.

Explain that it’s a modesty thing. IIRC, even secular Muslims wear it.

It is a modesty thing. However, I find more and more (Muslim ladies) are making it a fashion statement of sorts.


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