I joined the Brownies in the first grade, but left after a year because it made me feel insufficient. But apparently the Girl Scout movement is providing an opposite feeling for Muslim American girls. "When you say you are a Girl Scout, they say, 'Oh, my daughter is a Girl Scout, too,' and then they don't think of you as a person from another planet. They are more comfortable about sitting next to me on the train," says 12-year old Asma Haidara of Minneapolis, one of the many Muslim girls who are finding safety, acceptance, a means of shattering stereotypes, and an appetite for S'mores in the Girl Scouts of America.
Muslim girls across the country are flocking to the Girl Scouts because the organization gives them a way to feel less "alienated from mainstream culture." Minneapolis, in particular, is seeing a noted influx: The city counts 280 Muslim scouts and 10 mainly Muslim troops. And their troop leaders want to be clear: They're just regular American girls. Says one of the Muslim Minneapolis troop leaders, Farheen Hakim: "I don't want them to see themselves as Muslim girls doing this 'Look at us, we are trying to be American.' No, no, no, they are American. It is not an issue of trying."
And American they are: Suboohi Khan, age 10, who in addition to earning badges for "writing 4 of God's 99 names in Arabic calligraphy and decorating them, as well as memorizing the Koran's last verse" says her favorite badges came from "how to make body glitter and to see which colors look good on us" and "how to clean up our nails." Other issues arise: "If you break your fast, will your mother get mad at me?," asked troop leader Hakim to one of the girls in her troop. "It's delicious! It's a good way to break my fast," the scout in question stated later, after choosing to throw Ramadan out the window in exchange for a Halal beef hot dog. Wow. No wonder why Asma Haidara says her parents worry that by being in the Girl Scouts "she is "going to become a blue-eyed, blond-haired Barbie doll."