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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My thoughts: Muslim girl Death in Toronto

Some of you might have heard of this death in Toronto already:

Peel police said this morning that she died overnight.

Friends at the victim’s school said she feared her father and had argued over her desire to shun the hijab, a traditional shoulder-length head scarf worn by females in devout Muslim families.

This is very sad and may Allah SWT bless the soul of the deceased. There are two issues here: wearing of hijab and the other is raising/disciplining kids. There is a fat chance that these issues will be intermingled by the media . While some efforts have to be made to deal with the media , that should not be the main priority. The question the Muslim community should ask is "Why?" and see what long term measures can be taken to solve these issues. Of course it is unrealistic to expect a unified voice from the very diverse Muslim community but even at the level of every mosque questions need to be asked and answers should be sought out. How can we stop this from happening?

I remember being in a masjid sermon 3 years ago where the imam talked about how parents only start worrying about their kids practices once they it their teens. The problem is that lots of Muslim immigrants are used to large extended families-social networks and Muslim societies which facilitate the upbringing of the kids. So perhaps there is less onus on them on a day to day basis. The society takes responsibility. however if you import the same less intensive child rearing skills to a country like Canada where the social networks (specially for new immigrants) are not as extensive as their home countries-then there is a problem. If a new immigrant wants their kids to be the same way they would if they were growing up in their "home" country they are just setting themselves for disaster. They need to adjust-and they need to do it quick.

If a situation like this does arise where a daughter does not want to wear hijab and is being threatened by her parents into wearing it then she should have people she can go to who understand the family's cultural and religious context. This is where the problem of not enough "Muslim volunteers" in community support groups comes up. We need to have a presence in these groups. I remember talking to people who work at youth shelters who said that they usually dont know how to deal with muslim youth's families ( when Muslim kids walk into the shelter) and dont have any muslim volunteers who would be able to help them deal with cultural/religious issues at hand. Perhaps mosques should have a role in this as well and at least educate the people who come to the mosque on child rearing, rights of children, rights of parents, etc. At a recent local muslim event a a masjid volunteer uncle stood up and talked about the HUGE domestic abuse problems the muslim community is silent on.

Anyways-there is a lot to say but also a lot needs to be done. In the end we should not despair-this by the will of Allah and is a wake up call for us. Will we the muslim community rise up to the challenge? Or will we forget about it once this doesnt remain a media story? Or will we wait till we see these problems first hand? perhaps with our own kids?

1 comment:

khany said...

it is in deed a sad day.
inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon

haters will exploit this tragedy to claim vindication of their stance that the hijab is oppression. apologists will relate verses and traditions to demonstrate that there is no compulsion in religion. i fear, as you do, that amid the war of words the opportunity to reflect and reconsider may be lost.

i think, however, that the presence of muslim counselors is marginal to the solution of the issue. while the presence of extended families 'back home' offer a measure of support, yet such incidents of forced religious observance are not unknown (i would think more frequent) in the native communities. this is because members of an extended family often share the same mindset.

neither do i think that raising children 'better' will eliminate the problem. rebellious children are not simply a product of bad parenting. the society will still have to deal with rebellious children even if every parent were ideal.

no doubt both the above strategies will lower the incidence of aggravated situations. but the question i would like to focus on is what needs to be done when there is such a situation.
in the present atmosphere, i feel, it is all too common for religiously inclined parents to feel 'responsible' for their kids salvation. what are the limits of disciplining? how far does a parent go in forcing the child to do 'good'?

at present i find there is a naive assumption that if any child were taught 'wisely' they would automatically follow the instruction. in the real world people make choices.

unless we are willing to be realistic and ask difficult questions, i unfortunately do not see the society making progress.