This afternoon, we were doing a puzzle and in the background was a particularly odious interview with Martin Amis (to whom I took an intense and unexpected personal dislike, the self-satisfied smugness of him, ugh!) on the World Service about Islamism and the brown menace.

If it will aid your understanding, you can picture Ariel wearing her Father Christmas costume: this is what she selected this morning after I had vetoed the summer dress.

Anyway, all of a sudden, in the midst of trying to fit Dora the Explorer’s elbow onto her backside, she hit me with:

HER: Mummy, what’s a Muslim?

So this is pretty much the way the conversation went…

[Disclaimer: I am going to paraphrase some of my answers, because in reality I was struggling to answer all the questions in terms a 3-year-old can understand, and there was an amount of unming and ahhing and backtracking. Also, it was a pretty long conversation which didn’t necessarily flow in the logical order that adults seem to need, so I will probably have misremembered some parts or the order in which they went. There were several parts when we went through people she knew – and some she didn’t, like Oliver Dunkley and Dora the Explorer – and decided that some of them were, might be, probably weren’t, or definitely weren’t Muslims; I couldn’t be bothered to reproduce that bit since it was somewhat repetitive. Anyway. Here it is, worth recording even in slightly butchered form… 🙂 ]

ME: A Muslim is someone who believes in a religion called Islam. Muslims believe that there is a god who is called Allah and they have a book called the Koran which helps them decide how to live and what sort of things they should do.
HER: What things do they do?
ME: The Koran says that you should treat people kindly and with respect. There are some special rules as well, like not eating food that comes from pigs.
HER: Are we Muslims?
ME: No.
HER: Is Oliver Dunkley a Muslim?
ME: I don’t know.
HER: Who is a Muslim?
ME: Some of your friends at nursery are Muslim. I’m pretty sure that Amal is.
HER: But she might not be?
ME: Well I haven’t asked her, so I don’t know for sure. But you know that she wears a scarf on her head?
HER: Yes
ME: Well one of the things that Muslim women sometimes do is to wear a scarf on their head, so quite often women who have a scarf on like Amal’s are Muslims.
HER: And she has Eid. Like we have Christmas.
ME: That’s right. Eid is a Muslim festival. And there are lots of other religions as well, which have their own festivals and celebrations. Hindus have Diwali, and Pagans have Yule. You remember we went to a Yule party?
HER: Yes and we made candles for Diwali at nursery.
ME: Yes – look there’s the candle holder you made.
HER: Why aren’t you a Muslim?
ME: When I was growing up I was taught a different religion. And I don’t believe all the things that Muslims believe.
HER: What are you then?
ME: I’m still trying to work that one out. There are lots of big questions about why we are all here and what it all means and where everything came from – as you get older you’ll find out what different people believe about these things and then when you are ready you will be able to decide what you believe.
HER: What do you believe, mummy?
ME: You know what? I think that’s something we can talk about another day.
HER: I believe in Father Christmas.
ME: Father Christmas?
HER: Yes, he came to our house with some presents.