Sunday, 5 August 2012

My Disgust at the Shafilea Ahmed Honour Killing

 After 9 years, the parents of Shafilea Ahmed were finally sentenced to 25 years behind bars for her murder. Being led to his cell, Mr.Ahmed yelled 'fuck you' to the authorities. The once supposedly grieving man who along with his wife, played the role of a mourning couple after their daughter's dissapearance in 2003, let out his fiery side when slapped with his sentence. A twisted series of lies, deceit, culture and family drama unravelled in this case, which brought to light the turmoil many South Asian children face growing up in the West. Here's the story of a couple who raised their children as if they were still living in rural Pakistan. Without a doubt Britain is a far cry from Pakistan, where religion is the main belonging. Britain is a country where people come from all over the world to seek freedom and independence. It's obvious that any teenager growing up here would feel the desire to engage in the casual forms of socialising, dating and ambition that's been valued in the West.

Whilst I understand the need for parents to make sure that their children's roots are firmly instilled within them, having so much hatred for the lifestyle which they chose for their children to grow up in is outrageous. It's also a blow when Mr.Ahmed drips in hypocrisy after rebelling from his family and marrying his first wife- A Danish woman. Still married, he later left her to go to Pakistan to marry Mrs.Ahmed. To snatch away the same sense of freedom from his innocent daughter, who so obviously enjoyed being 'British' (by engaging in activities that were hardly out of the norm or frowned upon by any means in our Westernised society), is a compelling realization of societal differences that are still firmly in place today.

It was explained in court how Mr and Mrs. Ahmed went on to suffocate Shafilea with a plastic bag after a heated row and disposed of her body. Shafilea's siblings witnessed the whole event and were threatened to not say a word, and that's what they did for years....Until 2010, when Shafilea's sister Alesha told the horrifying truth after calling truce for her part in an organised robbery. This lingering case opened a horrifying door into the world of 'honour killings', 'respect' and 'reputation'.

What do I think of the 25 year sentence handed over to the Ahmeds by Mr. Justice Roderick Evans? It's justice, but is it justice enough? No. I hate that culture and religion does demonic things to people. To place your reputation in the Muslim community higher than the love for your own daughter, is invalid in a religion where peace is supposedly the defying message up in lights. It also hit a nerve when Mr and Mrs. Ahmed failed to place an importance on Shafilea's health when she drank bleach after her parents attempted her arranged marriage in Pakistan, because she was apparently 'causing a scene'. I have to admit though, as horrifying as this sounds, it isn't surprising. It's hard to balance two cultures that are uneven in which one is something you would love to immerse yourself in and the other one hovering over as a stark reminder of something your 'supposed' to be. It's really hit home for me.

I've experienced taunts about my 'heavier' weight from family relatives and friends from an early age, which inevitably means I'm not as attractive as the other Muslim girls in my community. This equated to 'reputation' problems for my family. Maybe, that's why I've been plagued with extreme body image issues my whole life, which I don't see eradicating any time soon. From those same people, I've also been given dissaproving looks over my refusal to pursue medicine/dentistry/law as a career path. Me? I'd rather be poorly paid and feed my creative flair than pretend to be interested in algebra. I tried that shit in school, it didn't get me very far. Parents evenings were dubbed 'doomsday'. I also had my first marriage proposal when I was 13 years old. Thankfully my parents shielded me from all that early marriage bullshit, rightly claiming I was way too young. Thankgod. But I wasn't allowed to my friends for sleepovers, wasn't allowed to talk to boys unless it was mandatory and an emphasis was placed on clothes that covered me completely (No boobage or tight jeans to accentuate my large derrière). By 19, the pressure to marry someone who was good for me had officially begun. Many suitors that I barely even know, I have turned down. The pressure is ongoing and bright as ever.

However, I came into my own when I went away to university. I understand my strict upbringing and what my parents thought they needed to do to raise me in a way they deemed right. Personally I'm ambivalent to religious norms dictating my life. I don't care for it. Now, I have way more of a say of what I want from my life as a recognised adult. But I know, that I will still be expected to buckle down soon. Where does that leave me and my weird ways? I don't know, but I'll cross that bridge when I reach it- And I wish Shafilea was given that option.
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