…the result of when culture and religion clash.
I find myself discussing this topic every single day, some of the major issues currently enveloping Muslim youth who are of British Pakistani background is down to clash of religion and culture. According to national statistic, British Pakistanis fair amongst the worst in their GCSE’s. According to several statistics, a high percentage of gang rape cases involve British Pakistanis. According to international statistics, forced marriages, honour killings, terrorism offences and other such grotesque and inhumane acts, involve Pakistanis.
All these Pakistanis, come from backgrounds and families that declare themselves Muslims. Why is there such a clash with these acts being carried out by people who call themselves Muslims and what Islam actually teaches?
Let’s consider the manner in which females are perceived within the Asian sub-continent, both by those living in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and those who’ve moved away and live in the Western world. Worth noting that the elements mentioned below, existed prior to the partition and subsequent independence of Pakistan and Bangladesh.
- Female infanticide – Although this heinous crime is happening in various countries, this is largely prevalent in India and Pakistan. Particularly where said child was the second child within a family, where the first child was already a female.
- Lack of education of females – This relates to Pakistan mainly, where the female literacy rates stands at 36%. This is insane. How can it be possibly be that, in a society where women don’t normally work and stay at home to look after their children, have such a low literacy rate, what can we then expect of the children? Why is the literacy rate so low, the early reasoning was given due to the Taliban, however they’re a fairly new phenomena, what about prior to this?
- Honour killings – Sadly this is rife, and has found its way to those Pakistanis living in places like Britain and America and other Western countries. The whole illogical basic of ‘honour killings’ lies around the belief that the daughter has brought ‘shame on the family,’ because of her refusal to follow ‘customs.’ This mainly relates back to issues relating to marriage and outside of marriage relationships. It is something I’ve never understood, which is a good thing I suppose, what’s the honour in killing someone?!
- Forced marriages – Child brides and grooms is something that is often spoken about in relation to Indo-Pak, girls as young as 6 are forced in marriages with older men. From what I’ve read about this, this is due to the family owing money to another family, or, if a family member has committed a crime against someone else, they need to ‘re-pay’ this through a child marriage, due to lack of finances along with the importance placed on female virginity.
- Female rape – There are still instances where female rape isn’t taken seriously by the courts, where still on a daily basis, barbaric crimes are committed against females, and no one stands up against them. There is hope however, some women are beginning to speak out and refuse to be silenced by the patriarchal society that enriches Pakistani life.
So, why is it that we now live in 2012 and still find such atrocities occurring around in the world simply because someone is a woman? There are issues relating to the treatment of women in every country, they vary from extremes. In the western world, the sexualisation of women is sickening. The manner in which young girls are expected to see such people as ‘role models’ is bewildering, and isn’t going to help them to progress academically and become empowering women who are confident and comfortable in themselves and their families.
But the problem within the Pakistani culture persists, and the battle for many families who’ve settled in places like England is striking a balance. Some parents just aren’t wiling to, but understandably, the children see a different life which they prefer and want to live that life instead. And what do some parents do? They throw down the religion card. They try and justify specific acts through religion. So, let’s consider what religion, Islam, has to say about the above mentioned points.
- Female infanticide – Prior to Islam, during the time of Jahalliyah (where ignorance was rife), people regularly practiced female infanticide. It was during the introduction of Islam, that such barbaric acts were eradicated. Hadiths which have been stated by Bukhari and Muslim, state that the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) said:“He who is involved in bringing up daughters, and accords benevolent treatment towards them, they will be protection for him against Hell-Fire” (Bukhari and Muslim)
“Whoever maintains two girls till they attain maturity, he and I will come on the Resurrection Day like this; and he joined his fingers” (Muslim).
Equally, Allah said in the Qur’an regarding the killing of female babies:
“When the female (infant), buried alive, is questioned, for what crime she was killed.” (81 : 8-9
“Kill not your children for fear of want: We shall provide sustenance for them as well as for you. Verily the killing of them is a great sin.” (17:31)
Allah then further explains in the Qur’an, that the blessings of children are from Him alone, and there is no difference between the blessing of a male or female child.
To Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. He creates what He wills. He bestows female children to whomever He wills and bestows male children to whomever He wills” (Quran 42:49).
- Lack of education of females – Education for women is considered a necessity in Islam. Women have been chosen by Allah to be mothers, to be the ones who go through the pregnancy and childbirth. Islam says regarding mothers:
“Seeking knowledge is mandatory for every believer.” [Ibn Majah]
Abu Hurayrah (may Allaah be pleased with him) said: “A man came to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, who among the people is most deserving of my good companionship?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ The man asked, ‘Then who?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ He asked, then who?’ He said, ‘Your mother.’ He asked, ‘Then who?’ He said, ‘Your father.’”
“And We have enjoined on man to be dutiful and kind to his parents. His mother bears him with hardship. And she brings him forth with hardship…” [al-Ahqaaf 46:15]
‘Abd-Allaah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas (may Allaah be pleased with them both) said: “A man came to the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and asked him for permission to participate in jihaad. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him, ‘Are your parents alive?’ He said, ‘Yes.’ He said, ‘Then your jihaad is with them.’” (Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 2842; Muslim, 2549)
So, how can it be that in a religion where women are given such a high position, that things like not allowing them to be educated can be considered acceptable? The wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), was a very successful business lady and well educated. Her name, Khadija, these are the people that Muslim parents should be looking for their daughters to emulate. Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) shared various teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and herself exalted in manners and morals.
- Honour killings –I’ve already mentioned previously the Islamic stance on this. There is nowhere in Islamic jurisdiction where honour killings are permissible. Where the killing of an innocent life is permissible.
Mughira b. Shu’ba reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: Verity Allah, the Glorious and Majestic, has forbidden for you: disobedience to mothers, and burying alive daughters, withholding the right of others in spite of having the power to return that to them and demanding that (which is not one’s legitimate right). And He disapproved three things for you; irrelevant talk, persistent questioning and wasting of wealth. (Muslim)
The Qur’an teaches us that “ if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole humanity: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the whole humanity.” (5:32) Islam places an extraordinary value on the life of a human being, let alone that of a daughter.
- Forced marriages – Islam stands firm on this matter. A marriage is considered a sacred bond between a man and woman, Allah says in the Qur’an regarding men and women:
And among His signs is this that He created for you mates from among yourselves, that you may dwell in tranquility with them, and He has put love and mercy between your hearts: Verily in that are signs for those who reflect. (Quran 30:21)
There is a clear emphasis placed on the importance of tranquillity, love and mercy between the parties. Being ‘forced’ to do something is against Islamic principles, as Allah has given us all free will and the ability to decide the steps we shall take in our lives accordingly. In modern day Britain, the entrenched cultural values that families hold, has meant that many families use their children as ‘pawn’ for their families ‘back home’ and almost as a passport and nothing more. This in turn goes against the teachings of Islam which commands that parents bring their children up according to Islamic rules and morals, and not cultures from previous generations simply because of family relations.
Parents who came to the UK in the mid ‘90’s, cannot expect to have had children in this country, sent them to school in this country, ensured they’ve integrated, matured, made friends, gone on to further education in some cases, gone in to employment in some cases, and then when it comes to family matters and matters concerning marriage, expect them to have the same ideals as them. One of the biggest cancers and issues currently within the Pakistani culture is this of the caste system. If you ask me, I wouldn’t even understand what the caste I supposedly come from, stands for or means. I honesty couldn’t care less.
You cannot instil values of religion in to your children from a young age, send them to two hours of madrassah lessons daily as a youngster after school, encourage them to learn about their religion, and then when it comes to making major decisions in their life, expect them to simply accept pre-historic traditions which don’t mean much to them. It is like you’ve shown them everything they could have had, and then giving them nothing. That doesn’t make sense.
The caste system goes directly against all that Islam stands for. The difference in treatment of men and women, goes against everything Islam stands for. The use of emotional blackmail, goes against everything Islam stands for.
Looking through the teachings of Islam, through the Qur’an and Hadith (teachings of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him), the status of a woman in Islam is difficult to truly grasp. People always tell me they’re ‘proud’ to be female and Muslim, I truly feel blessed, no pride on my part. I often what life would be like if I wasn’t a Muslim or brought up in the household that I was, blessed to have the parents and siblings I do. A stark reminder for myself that as much as we are given everything in this life, it can just as easily be taken away.
There are far too many British Pakistanis at odds with their identity, they pretend to be something else outside the home and something else within. They went to live their own life, please their friends, please their parents whilst at the same time, stay in touch with their religion. A false pretence and bravado often placed, whereas within them you’ll see an emotional wreck struggling to come to terms with the ‘double life’ that they lead. How many male and female British Asians, from the sub continent, go to school/college/University, form relationships which are kept secretive from their parents, are then expected to marry within their culture/caste, yet then the marriage is destroyed and a divorce issued within months? How is this within the laws of religion or morality?
This is going to come across as very ‘anti-male’ or patronising, not my intention at all.
My experience of SOME British Pakistani males hasn’t been all that positive, particularly on a medium like Twitter. I’d say I’ve had roughly ten people tweet me that I would consider ‘keyboard bullies,’ of these 9 were British Pakistanis (made obvious through their bio’s and previous conversations). They struggled to accept, in my view obviously, females who dare to be different, females who are independent thinkers, females who don’t fit their myopic view of Pakistani women, and as such vent their frustrations of the double life that they lead through Twitter. Personally, I think it is because they are embarrassed at their small penis size [am I allowed to say that? I think I should remove this sentence. If you can read it, I didn’t remove it. If you can’t read it, I did]
This is not to say that the culture clash doesn’t affect males, in fact, in some cases it may affect them more so as they feel more of a necessity to ‘continue the family name,’ however many feel that males in such cultures are afforded more freedom than the women, there is more expectancy on the girls to ‘behave’ whereas many of the boys get away with it, until it comes to marriage.
What problem exactly do people have with females who want to live according to the laws of Islam? Does it scare them that women will become exactly what Allah created them for, so instead prefer to shackle them within culture and have the male dominance as it somehow makes their life worth living?
Until parents embrace and progress with their children’s way of thinking, then such issues will continue to persist. I am not saying ALL of culture is bad, it clearly isn’t. However, there are major aspects of culture which infringe upon Islamic law that are odds with it, leaving people to lead very unfulfilled and sad lives. Apart from ‘caste,’ Pakistani, Indian and Bengali families consider matters of ‘shame,’ ‘honour’ and the old ‘what will so and so think’ to be of huge importance, almost to the point where, that takes precedence over the emotional and physical wellbeing of their children. This simply cannot go on.
Youth who suffer and live in situations like this end up in two ways. Either they completely rebel, from culture, religion, morals and away from their parents towards a path where they feel they belong and seek the approval of others, anywhere that they get attention. Or, end in a marriage of convenience for extended families, thereby having no choice but to stay in the marriage because a divorce would be ‘shameful,’ and the child often feels an allegiance to their parents to do right by them. But, both result in loss of trust, love and a complete breakdown of the parent and child relationship. And then, what of future generations? Is this a never ending web? When will it come to an end? Neither is a healthy way of living, you become an emotional wreck, and not forgetting it goes against Islamic principles.
Parents need to give their child that trust and life that they deserve, once you’re an adult, such decisions should be of your own accord. Everyone naturally seeks approval of their parents in marriage partner, but not at the expense of happiness and blind loyalty. The child ends up living a false life with a distorted sense of what religion is and what culture is, making it difficult to differentiate.
This post has ended up being another waffle and comes across as some sort of feminist [which I am NOT by the way, I disagree completely with the notion of feminism and find the term ‘Muslim feminist’ an oxy moron], but it is something that has been irking me for a while and I needed to write about. If you got this far, thanks!
I haven’t even gone in to key matters of Islam on woman, the rights that females are afforded, including where married any earnings are her own, however where the male is earning and is considered the breadwinner in the family, then his earnings belong to the husband , wife and children. Not only that, women in Islam from the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) were given rights over property, housing, voting, and similar matters which were only encouraged within Western society some several hundred years ago. Added to the dedication of an entire chapter in the Qur’an to the Maryam (Mary, mother of Isa [Jesus] may Allah be pleased with him) adds to the position of women in Islam.
The fact that people who consider themselves Muslim commit harm, does not mean that Islam is to blame. It is the people who are to blame (which brings me on to another blog post in a few weeks, insha’Allah)
”When she is a daughter, she opens a door of Jannah for her father. When she is a wife, she completes half of the deen of her husband. When she is a mother, Jannah lies under her feet – If everyone knew the true status of a muslim women in Islaam, even the men would want to be women” – Shiekh Akram Nadawi