Fiaz: muslim dad

What's it like being a Muslim father? How much does their religion inform the way they bring up their kids? Do they face unique challenges, or the same ones as every other dad? To find out, Dad Info spoke to Muslim father-of-four Fiaz Saleem.

Fiaz lives in Cumbernauld, near Glasgow. He recently gave up the family business to spend more time with his children, so now works in Woolworths. Fiaz is married to Refana and they have four sons: Adam, 2, Harry, 8, Amir, 12, and Haroon, 16.

We spoke to Fiaz about some of the unique challenges he faces as a Muslim - and the many ways in which his faith shapes his attitude to family and fatherhood.

How does being a Muslim affect your role as a dad?

'As a Muslim, I have a lot of responsibilities. I have 4 boys ranging in age from 2 to 16, so I have to be pretty strict with them in terms of what they do and what they know.

'I explain to them from a young age what the Koran says is right and wrong - especially in terms of what we can eat and drink, how they behave at home, in school and in society. Of course their mum talks to them about these things too, but it's mainly down to me.

'Education is really important for us. I try to explain that to them, especially my older boys. I left college early to work in my dad's shop, which I've always regretted. I think that, as Muslims, it's especially important for us to be well educated so we can explain Islam to other people and help them see it in a positive light.'

Are you head of the family?

'Yes, I am. I play a leading role in our family, especially in bringing up the kids. I used to have a shop, but I let it go seven months ago so I could spend more time with my boys. Running a shop takes all your time, from morning to night, so I wasn't there for my wife or kids.

'I felt I needed more quality time with my family - and that my boys needed more of a role model and an authority figure in their life. Today, for example, my boys are on holiday so they're at home. I don't start work till two so I can stay home with the kids while my wife is out. I spend a lot of time talking to them and guiding them as best I can.'

What do you teach your boys that other dads might not?

'We have prayer time every evening, when we all read together from the Koran. We're supposed to pray 5 times a day, but I limit that to once with the whole family.

'It's family time too, a structured activity to do every day, which is really good. The kids learn how to pray - I usually get one of the older boys to read the prayer, which helps them feel responsible.

'Sometimes they don't want to do it - you know what youngsters are like, they might just want to watch TV - but it's important to pray together, even if it's just for 5 or 10 minutes.'

Is it important to you that your kids are Muslims?

'Very important, yes. I've seen kids from Muslim families who have strayed off the path. They might still be Muslims, but they got into bad habits like drinking or gambling - I've seen people really go downhill and end up destroying their lives, and their family.

'That's why I try to make sure my sons stick to Islamic morality. I take them to mosque every Friday or for one of our festivals. It's also a great way for them to meet everyone and feel part of the community.'

Are you bothered by the way Muslims are portrayed in the media at the moment?

'Yes, I am really affected by it. For example, after the London bombings, people gave me strange looks in the street and customers would get angry and agitated about what happened.

'But we were angry too - those terrorists weren't real Muslims, they were just using Islam as an excuse for their actions. I try and explain to non-Muslims what our beliefs are and the fact that Islam is a calm, peaceful, respectful religion.

'Hopefully, most people understand that the majority of Muslims hate what those people did. But it's made it even more important for me to keep my boys on the right path so they don't get led astray, or do things that make people think negatively about Islam.'

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