Please tell us a bit about yourselves.
We are Michael Milo and Flordeliza Dayrit from Canada. We are a husband and wife team. Both of us are reverts – raised Catholic. We have been Muslim now for about 20 years.
Having been bestowed the gift of Islam, we are both motivated to contribute to the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). That is what inspires us to do the dawah work for children.
We got our start in Islamic media about ten years ago with a major television documentary A New Life in a New Land: The Muslim Experience in Canada. The series was broadcast in Canada and around the world and is used in schools, universities and libraries across Canada.
When we saw the positive effect that media can have we began focusing on Islamic content. We had the opportunity to live in a Muslim majority country. We spent a year working in Egypt as Director of Programming for Huda TV one of the most well know Islamic broadcasters.
Many parents are familiar with our videos. The most famous is Hurray for Baba Ali which was written and directed by Flordeliza. It is one of the most popular English-language Islamic children’s video having over 10 million views on YouTube.
We started work developing children’s Islamic content in 2007 for very personal reasons. At the time, we had young children. As many reverts, we hope and pray that our children will grow up as Muslims and would have the equivalent experience as other Canadian children that have access to so much educational and religious television and media. They soon realized that the Muslim community was not keeping pace. Muslim kids had no real media of their own that celebrated life as a Muslim child. The couple has dedicated their lives to improving that situation since that time.
For anyone that doesn’t know, please tell us about Muslim Kids TV.
Muslim Kids TV is the first interactive, Islamic TV for children online (www.MuslimKids.TV). It is a place where Muslim kids can be Muslim kids. We bring together the best digital content for children. There are hundreds of videos, computer games, apps, educational resources and interactive activities. We are particularly proud of the Recitation Buddy app that helps children with Quran memorization.
Our goal is to make learning about Islam the most enjoyable thing in a child’s life.
What inspired you to start Muslim Kids TV?
As parents of young children, and especially as reverts we wanted our children to see Islam as a beautiful thing. Many children in western countries value and love movies, TV shows and cartoons. They get their role models from these sources. We found that Muslim children had no real media of their own that celebrated life as a Muslim child.
Perhaps new Muslims we feel this need more. We don’t have the family and social networks for our children to form positive Muslim role models. Nor do we have the social and family support to teach our children about Islam. So we really rely on educational resources.
When we saw there was little in this area, we thought we should devote ourselves to this cause.
What challenges have you encountered along the way?
Probably the biggest challenge has been apathy and lack of concern in the Muslim community with Islamic media for children. Children often are not even on the agenda. The adults running organizations can be very self-serving and do all of the programming for themselves. So simply getting the needs of children on the agenda in Muslim communities is a challenge.
Also, a lot of media literacy is also required. Many people don’t see the importance of media. There is a very dismissive attitude that it is “only a cartoon”.
In fact, those cartoons are forming the world view of children that will remain with them for life. Muslims really must understand the tremendous positive effect that media can have on building a better Muslim generation. And conversely, there is a tremendous and real danger to families to openly expose children to a daily barrage of media that is counter to Muslim values. Parents often find this out too late after their children have been corrupted. This often surfaces in the teen years when it is really difficult to change things.
We are working to convince people to have a long term view. Some people don’t want to participate if it doesn’t serve them immediately. For example, parents with very young children or children that are now grown. We want to give the message that you should still help because in a few short years your children or your grandchildren will need Muslim Kids TV. That is the same with the quality issue, people expect a product comparable to Hollywood. So our message is we are delivering a product on par with Hollywood and that your support will make it happen so support today – buy a subscription, support content development monthly, support Muslim Kids TV.
The most heartbreaking thing we see is when the child just loves our content. But mom or dad pull the kids away only to go home and rent a movie. We don’t think that it is a money issue because it is only pennies a day for a membership. We think there is a deeply ingrained attitude in some Muslims not to trust a Muslim product.
What has the response been to Muslim Kids TV?
It is amazing the responses we receive from both parents and children. As soon as most children see Muslim Kids TV they are immediately engaged. They see the quality, they love the stories and want to get more. For parents, they are always very appreciative. They see that their children are engaged and that this is a really great thing because they finally have comparable videos, games and interactive activities that the kids want to watch and that also help build their child’s Islamic identity.
How do you manage a project such as this alongside life’s other commitments?
Truthfully the project consumes a large part of our lives. We focus on our family and children and then the MKTV project. We both left successful careers to pursue Muslim Kids TV.
The Muslim community is very far behind in digital education and entertainment. Because there are so few companies working in this area we have to work very hard to push things forward. But we really do need the community to support the work to a much greater extent. The foundation is now there and we hope that by getting more community support we can build more capacity in others as well.
Where do you see Muslim Kids TV in 5 years?
We always say that we want to be the “Disney” for Muslim families. We hope that as the community becomes more aware of the importance of the project that families, schools and investors really get behind Muslim Kids TV. Muslim history and culture are very much lost to the world because we have not invested in preserving our unique stories and culture. We would love to see Muslim Kids TV play an invaluable role in bringing our culture, beliefs and values to each future generation.
What is the favorite project you’ve worked on thus far?
Our favorite project so far is the Mama and Lulu project. This is the first project where we have really expanded the vision to include animation, books, toys, and apps. We really focused on the characters and because of it, we have fallen in love with Lulu bird and her mother. The stories center on Mama bird teaching Lulu about the lives of the prophets. For us, the project created a close connection to the lives of the prophets as well. Because of the difficulty of the work the struggles of the prophets became very real for us too.
If you could teach Muslim children one thing, what would it be?
We would love for Muslim children to know Allah SWT better and fully put their trust in Allah. This will ensure a child has the best footing in life. When a child fully trusts Allah then they are confident in all of their abilities. We would like to see this self-confidence in themselves and in Islam move the child forward in their life to then have a much more positive influence on humanity.
- MKG Chats With Ali Huda - January 25, 2018
- Top 5 Apps to Download For Your Kids This Ramadan! - May 11, 2017
- 8 Books to Teach your Kids about the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) - December 2, 2016