THE killing of 16-year-old Pakistani-Canadian Aqsa Parvez by her father over her refusal to wear the hijab speaks volumes for the kind of tensions that exist between Pakistanis who migrate to the West and their offspring who find themselves trapped in a cultural limbo.
Similar cases have occurred in Italy and Britain, where Pakistani migrants murdered their daughters in cold blood for refusing to agree to arranged marriages. These cases may have been extreme demonstrations of the anger and frustration felt by parents living in a foreign milieu and unable to make their children conform to their religious and cultural beliefs. Nevertheless, violence and emotional abuse, especially against girls who dare to overstep the stringent limits set by their conservative parents, is not uncommon in the West.
As in the case of Aqsa Parvez, the urge to rebel against cultural restrictions becomes stronger. Of course, matters can also go in the reverse direction. Prolonged exposure to intense family and community religiosity and cultural beliefs, that almost invariably denounce western ethics, leaves its mark on the impressionable. The result might not always be ‘home-grown terrorism’ and suicide attacks by young Muslim males who have been raised in the West. But it may have equally disastrous, long-term effects by deepening the rift between the practitioners of two sets of values and leading to greater misunderstandings between East and West.
It is unfortunate that immigrant Muslim families in the West, especially those from our part of the world, have not tried to find a middle path that would enable their children to retain the best of their own values and assimilate the positive traits of western civilisation.
This would not necessarily entail a denial of identity. In fact, it could go a long way in plugging the gap that now exists between Muslim immigrant communities and the local inhabitants of their adopted land to which the expatriates have turned for the economic and social justice denied to them in their home country.
It would also enable them to discard rigid notions of right and wrong, and see the world from a more universal perspective.