“Would you like to buy some girl scout cookies?”
For a hundred years, Girl Scouts have been asking this question with smiling faces- and one would be hard pressed to say “no” to any one of these uniformed diet-busters. As a veteran girl scout leader, I expect to have more than my share of (un)necessary calories each spring, but what I didn’t expect was the additional rewards that come with scouting. For a mom of three boys and one girl, my daughter and I have found girl scouting to be the time that enhances our bond with each other and brings us closer as women. At the same time, it gives her the opportunity to make friends with young girls who come from families with similar values and priorities. Girl scouting has also helped me achieve my goal of surrounding my children with people who encourage them to strive for good against all that is out there, regardless whether or not we share the same faith tradition.
Scouting helps girls gain confidence, character and a “can do attitude” while developing strong bonds of friendship and sisterhood in an environment conducive to learning and free from competition. In a world that’s been telling women for centuries how much they cannot do, girl scouting provides a safe avenue to realize how much they can! Girl scout programs help me realize my goal of nurturing innate feminine qualities in my daughter, while not compromising her strength and conviction in what she chooses to do. Being part of a scouting organization allowed my kids and I to unlock doors and explore newspaper printing, TV studios, programming, assembly lines, making things, and even police stations. We have also been able to give back by organizing food drives, clothing drives, and shoe drives for people locally and internationally. We have helped in environmental cleanups and cooked behind the kitchen doors of a restaurant. We have learned about animal care as well as social etiquettes for high tea. Basically, through scouting we have found a missing link in the education and training of our young men and women: the real world experience.
Just as scouting has become part of the American fabric, so have Muslim girls in a girl scout uniforms. For many young girls, the brown vest of her brownie troop, with its numerals and flag, diffuse “the looks” they otherwise may receive while in hijab. As Muslim Girl Scouts, troops have participated in group camping, but on their own terms. They’ve had s’mores with halaal marshmallows, cooked halaal meat for their evening meal and left the group to say their prayers. The organizers were so impressed with the way these girls were able to integrate their own duties and obligations, while enjoying all the activities that were planned. One of them said this: “Camping with the girls was a pleasure! I loved observing them learn new things and watch them balance their diversity in unfamiliar territory. Girl Scouts is a platform where diversity is honored and becomes our strength.”
What better way to teach our young ones the beauty and diversity of this nation, while immersing them in their own religious and moral values? Scouting provides a secular, yet moral platform for all to join in on common grounds: honesty, integrity and building community leadership. Infused with Islamic values and pure goodwill, Muslims will be able to participate and produce a generation of Americans who pledge, on their honor, that they will do their duty to Allah and their country. In other words; they pledge to be a better Muslim.
Shaheen is teacher turned home educator of four residing in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a homeschool consultant for Kinza Academy and runs a blog on educating our children holistically. Please visit it at www.soulfulstudies.wordpress.com.