Cultural disparity leads to flashpoints
London Telegraph, on May 22 carried a news item by Nigel Bunyan on a
17 year old Pakistani teenager, Shafilea Ahmed, murdered by her parents,
Iftikhar Ahmed and Farzana, for bringing 'shame' on them by leading a
Western way of life. Her parents had gone berserk when, Shafilea adopted
a Western type lifestyle and could not overpower her will and finally
did when she resisted parents’ plan for an arranged marriage. Shafilea’s
sister had broken the news of the murder after an eight year silence at
Chester Crown Court in Britain. Mr. and Mrs. Ahmed had denied murder.
The murder of 16 year old Aqsa Parvez, by her father Muhammad, for
her refusal to wear traditional Muslim garb including the hijab (veil)
was reported by Canadian Journalist Chris Wattie in the Canadian
National Post on December 11, 2007.
Journalist Rob Quinn attached to Newser (Canada) in November 2011
revealed how Mohammad Shafia, father of Zainab 19, Sahr 17 and Geethi 13
, murdered all three daughters. The wiretap evidence played at the
courts amplified Shafia’s voice thus: “Even if they hoist us onto the
gallows we have not done anything bad”. Calling his daughters ‘whores’
for having boyfriends, he was heard yelling at the courts prior to his
conviction saying ‘he would take the same actions again - even if his
daughters came back to life 100 times’!
The problem of young Asian girls turning into rebels had been exposed
in an Indian tabloid published in London once, and the apparent reason
for going a stray was said to be out of their fear of having to spend
the rest of their lives married to a stranger, forced on them by
parents. The words ‘arranged marriage’ with dowries are regarded as
hideous in any Western society and is capable of raising a few eye
In the 21st century engulfed in the liberal social order, behaviour
and attitudes of some of the Asian migrant communities seem to dwell in
the distant past, especially when it comes to their daughters. The
children born and bred in Western surroundings to migrant parents are
trapped in two different cultures and social pressures - one at home and
when they are outside with their equals. When parents take a rigid stand
and think that the arranged marriage is the norm for their daughters the
door for desolation opens.
Westernised youngsters regard marriage not as a mere contract to be
arranged as a matter of convenience between two sets of families to
safeguard their business interests or to keep their wealth in a closed
shop set up. In such a backdrop, the gulf between Eastern and Western
cultures seem to deepen intensely and Asian teenagers tend to become
victims of contrasting attitudes where children do not understand their
parents, and vice versa.
When these teenagers harbour the idea that their parents are ‘old
fashioned and stereotyped’ and their only worry is about maidenhood
fears but nothing else, what looks like progress confronts the young
Asian girls with a unique and paralysing predicament as a direct
consequence of having to live alongside a culture which is alien and
rejected, and on the other which offers possibilities of a tempting
personal freedom, that is not available in ‘their own’ societies.
Girls point a finger at parents for ‘not understanding that they are
budding young women and there is much more in life to see and enjoy
prior to bidding good - bye to their freedom. They find it difficult to
face the type of life what their parents are trying to map out for them
but would like to think and take independent decisions.
What is freedom..?
Some Asian mothers who used enjoy ‘their freedom’ in their young days
are said to be at times against the same kind of freedom when it comes
to their daughters. They reject the ‘so called independence’ in the West
and remark that “Western society is somewhat corrupt and Westerns exceed
the limit of their freedom”! But teenage daughters come up with a
million dollar question as to who could tell a woman how to use her
freedom? Because then it is not freedom’!
Conflicts of this nature emerge out of cultural clashes between the
older generation brought up under strict discipline in their own
countries and the new generation born to them in what they regard as
'alien’ environments. The issue becomes crystal clear from the kind of
anguish described in the case of Shafilea Ahmed and other two cases
where parents were driven off the deep end to put an end to their own
flesh and blood!
Supply and demand in human labour, be it the cream of professionals
or the common road sweeping labourer, has saturated societies the world
over with cosmopolitan crowds with their own cultures and traditions.
Under such inevitable circumstances different ‘worlds’ beginning to
collide cannot be ruled out.
It is alleged that some Asian parents, who are clueless about
pressures of their teenage children in modern day living, attempt to
monopolise their issues and control their daughters like wounded toys!
Under tremendous pressure, the young and weaker individuals have now
started to drift away from their homes as the only escape from the
problem, while the strongest and most liberated will fight their elderly
to achieve what they believe in freedom and end up in tragic
This evidently forces the Asian communities with rigid discipline and
who are unable to assimilate into foreign surroundings and societies to
ask themselves the vital question whether their initial decisions to
migrate in the first place are paying off ?