CC ISSUE: APR 2012 Last updated: Apr 5, 2012
Muslim Girl Scouts
On the front lawn of Islamic Foundation, Villa Park, on an unseasonably warm March 12, about 50 Muslim girls were engaged in a swap.
Wearing blue, brown, and green sashes, they exchanged handmade pins, beads, and other trinkets in honor of the hundredth anniversary of the Girl Scouts. The organization, founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low of Savannah, Ga., is commemorating its century-long success at empowering girls in the U.S. and around the world this year. The swap at one of Chicago’s largest mosques commemorated the milestone.
“We are fortunate that the values of Girl Scouting work hand in hand with Islamic values,” said Zeenat Hussain, membership organizer for Muslim Girl Scout troops at Islamic Foundation School.
Girl Scouts strives to empower girls by teaching honesty, fairness, courage, compassion, character, sisterhood, confidence, and citizenship using activities like camping and community service, and earning badges by learning other practical skills. Its annual cookie-selling program raises $760 million a year, which is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the country.
Currently, there are over three million Girl Scouts in the U.S. The organization also has branches in 145 countries. Among the oldest are those in Saudi Arabia and Syria, which were established in 1925.
“Girl Scouts was developed to get girls out of the house initially, and expose them to new experiences, which is still their mission. Their role has expanded as girls’ lives have expanded,” said Donna Kassar, who leads two troops at Islamic Foundation in Villa Park. She was a Girl Scout from first to sixth grade growing up in Waterloo, Iowa. Today, her three daughters are all involved in the program.
She said being Girl Scouts has helped her children learn leadership and “their people skills have been very much enhanced.”
Kassar also noted that while much of the contents of the program are the same, Muslim troop leaders can and do organize Islamically-themed projects and activities, like Eid parties. She also stressed that Girl Scouts today offers not just its traditional camping and crafting programs. It has a wide selection of activities to choose from, including those focused on math, science, and engineering.
Currently, about 70 girls participate in the Muslim Girl Scout program.
“About 10 years ago, a group of mothers from Islamic Foundation worked diligently to introduce and bring Girl Scouting to our girls,” said Rahman about how it all began. “They wanted our girls to be part of a program that supports leadership, humanity, and service.”
Girl Scouts gives young girls a chance to be a part of an organization that completely focuses on the empowerment of girls, according to Rahman.
“They get to learn, grow, develop friendships and have fun all within the guidelines of Islam,” she said.
“The benefit of having all-Muslim Girl Scouts is that we can discuss how what we’re doing relates to our faith,” added Kassar.
The Muslim troops held a Thinking Day retreat at Islamic Foundation in February, where Muslim scouts hosted their non-Muslim counterparts in the Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana area, sharing food, crafts, and fun.