Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan is a beautiful book that provides a child’s eye view of Muslim culture. The book has received several positive reviews and honors, but it still managed to spark a social media controversy when children’s book author and former educator Kate Messner recommended it to her Twitter followers.
The School Library Journal article about the incident quotes Messner as saying that the Twitter user who took issue with her recommendation, then using the handle “atheistactuary,” seemed to have “set up a search for Islam, and made it their mission to seek out anyone that had something positive to say about the religion.” Messner, for her part, maintained a diplomatic tone throughout the exchange. She promoted diversity and openness in her original post, and she didn’t back down from that in a multi-day back and forth with this Twitter user who seemed intent on painting all Muslims as terrorists, misogynists, or otherwise dangerous.
I can’t be alone in thinking that this controversy shows why books like Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns are important. We need to humanize people who are different if we want to raise kids who are willing to see beyond their own experiences to make the world a better place. To see people as individuals rather than as a label full of our preconceived notions.
While I have made no secret of my non-belief–thus making me an atheist or agnostic depending on your definitions of the words–I do believe in people. I prefer to wear “Humanist” over “atheist” most of the time since that puts people first. It emphasizes values over beliefs, and that’s important to me. The specifics of my beliefs about the universe are less important than my values of openness and diversity.
I suppose I am still glowing with a cooperative spirit after reading Chris Stedman’s Faitheist, which encourages non-religious people to get involved in interfaith activism. It was hugely inspiring, and it has motivated to me to share this specific message: not all atheists are like the Twitter user in this incident. Please don’t use this as a reason to add to the already strong prejudice against the non-religious. We are people beyond our label just like Muslims, Christians, and others. We are as committed to the common good as anyone else.
No matter what your religious affiliation (or none at all), do check out Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns as a way to open a conversation about another culture with young children. The lush illustrations portray every day life in a Muslim family. It builds understanding without preaching, and I recommend it highly. Teen readers might find Growing Up Muslim by Sumbul Ali-Karamali or Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah provide a similar glimpse into Muslim culture.
Check out my For Secular Families page for more posts about children’s books related to religion to promote a people-first perspective in your family no matter what you believe.
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