I have been absent from my blog for a while, for a number of reasons, many incidents have perturbed me within the past month or so, from the rochdale sex grooming case to the on going trial of Shafilea Ahmed, I guess I didn’t want to write anything, as I was trying to gather my thoughts so I could clearly articulate the unease I was experiencing following such atrocities.
Whilst both issues have really disturbed me, it is the case of Shafilea Ahmed that I would like to discuss. (I have written about sexual grooming in a previous post)
Shafilea Ahmed is not the only girl who has experimented or ‘succumbed to the western way of life.’ Many third generation girls are growing up challenging many of the cultural practises of their parents and grandparents. It is a common fact. What is it about this that causes so much conflict within a South Asian household? I never understood it, until I read a paper by Maria Stern, for my dissertation, entitled ‘Reading Mayan Women’s In/security.’ In this paper, Stern talks extensively on how an ethnic minority seeks to protect its identity within the indigenous majority, so elements of culture and traditional values are clung on to, to such an extent that people forget why they are clinging on to these values, its just that they feel if they let go, they let go of their identity. And thus we have the them and us mentality, ‘they’ being the strange foreign people, who want to strip us of our identity and who look down on us, ‘they’ have no morals or respect for us. Whilst ‘us,’ we have traditions, and values, and core beliefs and we do not allow our women to dress dishonourably for they should be respected etc etc. But this is not true. It is a social construct created to protect communities from invasion or assimilation.
So when we hear of the opposition and conflict that is caused in a house, when an adolescent asian girl decides to wear ‘western clothing,’ this is why it is so, (well this is my attempt to rationalise it.) It is a fear of losing one’s identity. But an identity is not a construct of clothing, nor should it be. But that is something to ponder over at a later time.
What struck me most, regarding the Shafilea case were three major points,
The first being the fact that her parents allegedly murdered her
The second being that they allegedly murdered her in front of her siblings
and thirdly that her running away was a common fact and knowledge to the community around her
Firstly as a parent I cannot begin to comprehend how you can murder your child, seriously, there are times when you get annoyed or irritated or even possibly angry but to physically end the life of your own is just beyond understanding. Yet what scares me, is the fact that there will be some parents, who will have heard about this case and will have said, ahhh but she asked for it, she was going AWOL, what did she expect, her poor parents what must they have endured. Trust me, when I say, they’re will be parents who will sympathise, maybe not publicly but privately absolutely. Don’t be so shocked, after all I am speaking of a community where Honour killings are on the increase and issues of forced marriage and sexual abuse are denied or ignored. You see, Shafilea’s parents will be excused by some because they acted to ‘preserve their honour.’ Preserve their honour within their family or community. Now let me tell you this.
THERE IS NO HONOUR IN KILLING YOUR DAUGHTER. THERE IS NO HONOUR IN MURDER. THERE IS NO HONOUR IN ABUSE.
secondly to commit the murder in front of the siblings (if this is is found to be true), screams only one thing, deterrence. They would have only performed the vile act of insanity in front of their other children to send a message and to instil fear. Instil the fear that if they behaved or followed in the footsteps of Shafilea they would end up like her. So they set a precedent.
Thirdly, and it is this that really perturbs me, in one or two articles, Shafilea’s sister said in court, that her parents instructed her to tell people that Shafilea had ran away AGAIN, and that would or should have kept people quiet. What bugs me, is the fact that this girl was clearly unhappy, clearly in a violent household, had ran away several times, yet had received NO HELP. In fact the simple fact that she ran away was so normal and accepted that even her teachers took it with no question. And this is what worries me. How many girls are in abusive situations and are looking for help, yet are being neglected.
Do i feel it is the job of the community to help girls like Shafilea before it is too late, ABSOLUTELY. But the emphasis should not just lie on the Asian community, you see we desperately need women’s movement, but we need help to initiate that movement. We require help from men and women from all races, who have experience in dealing with situations like this so that we can prevent another murder from occurring. We need help in examining the root of the problem so we can help families understand that they cannot repress their daughters. We need to educate our men and women so that they are proud of their identity but not blindly, proud because they understand who they are isn’t defined by what they wear or how they look.
I worry that we have so much work to do, and the longer time we take to do it, more girls are falling victims. I do have hope, because I know they’re are passionate individuals out there desperate to make a change.
On a final note I would like to pay my respects to Shafilea Ahmed, and every other woman who has been murdered so DISHONOURABLY. You are heroines in my eyes, I feel guilty on behalf of my community for neglecting you, for not standing by your side and guiding you. May you rest in eternal peace, for surely after hardship comes ease-That is a promise made by the Lord you have returned to. Go your legacy remains, you will motivate us to act and to save others before they too become narratives that we seek to understand.