Cultural disparity leads to flashpoints
Posted on July 12th, 2012

Dr. Tilak Fernando

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 “ƒ”¹…”whores’ for having boyfriends, he was heard yelling at the courts prior to his conviction saying “ƒ”¹…”he would take the same actions again – even if his daughters came back to life 100 times’!

   

Shafilea Ahmed

Aqsa Parvez

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 havingto spend the rest of their lives married to a stranger, forced on them by parents. The words “ƒ”¹…”arranged marriage’ with dowries are regarded as hideous in any Western society and is capable of raising a few eye brows.

Cultural clashes

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 “ƒ”¹…”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 “ƒ”¹…”their own’ societies.

Girls point a finger at parents for “ƒ”¹…”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 “ƒ”¹…”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 “ƒ”¹…”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 “ƒ”¹…”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 circumstances!

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 ?

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One Response to “Cultural disparity leads to flashpoints”

  1. Vijendra Says:

    These people migrated to the west leaving behind Pakistan, their country of origin. If they are to live there happily, they have to adjust their mindset and values to those of the country. The children are not going to go back to Pakistan to live. So they have to learn and get along with their peers in schools, workplaces and the general society. So, to avoid the cultural clashes, they have to learn to let go the baggage they brought from Pakistan. Parents can not force the children living in the west to live as if they are still in Pakistan.

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