Despised Why I, as an Asian Woman, Despair of Arranged Marriages

By Khan, Anvar | Daily Mail (London), April 24, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Despised Why I, as an Asian Woman, Despair of Arranged Marriages


Khan, Anvar, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: ANVAR KHAN

IF THEY are unlucky, and it is not a matter open to discussion or negotiation, some Asian women at the age of 16 may have to endure plans being made by their parents for an arranged marriage.

The thinking of the Asian community is this: they fear complete integration into the mainstream British way of life because they believe that compromise will erode their sense of who they are.

If they were to allow their children to marry whoever they wanted, Asian parents would feel empty, as though their very core had been undermined by a country they still worry does not accept them.

So some still think it's OK to sacrifice and confuse the identity of their children in the pursuit of nothing more than what they regard as cultural rights.

It is important to understand the absolute panic and alarm that first generation Asians feel in this country. While their children wholly and naturally embrace the culture of the nation they were born into - and feel as British as anyone under their brown skin - their parents still remember the racism and prejudice they faced when they emigrated here.

But these same parents do not understand that the pressure they exert on their children to adopt the culture of the country they themselves chose to leave behind is almost an act of violence.

The most prized principle that the West holds dear is the right to choose one's own destiny.

This attitude clashes with the rigidity of British Asian culture, which demands that individuals conform to the community's idea of how to live.

An arranged marriage is the point where the ethos of the East clashes with that of the West. Caught in this crossfire, Asian youth suffers a crisis of self-expression.

They simultaneously feel torn between honouring their parents and loving and responding to the values of a culture they have inherited as their own.

Lord McEwan agreed that the marriage of Aneeka Sohrab should be annulled.

In this case, as in other arranged marriages, the aspirations of the freethinking Western world collide with both the strictness and paranoia of a culture which sees itself as being at the margins of British society.

The Asian community will not be happy with the verdict and will perceive it to be an attack on their religious and social values. It acts like a minority under threat.

But Lord McEwan is right. My view is that members of the Asian community must integrate, however painful that process is, or forever face the consequences of the misery and stress they bring to bear upon the heads of their children.

I say dump the volatile and outdated concept of arranged marriages. Let your children be themselves.

It is crucial to understand that the second generation of Asians in our country feel that they are caught up in the middle of a war.

You don't need guns when there is emotional manipulation; where shame is levelled at a young woman's head by her family instead - or where the mother, as Aneeka' s d i d , threatens to kill herself because she cannot bear the stigma of having an outcast daughter, and a l l i n the name o f a marriage ceremony.

This is the calibre of emotional blackmail to which some young Scottish Asians find themselves subjected.

If you rebel against your parents, they are told, you risk their health, their sanity and their pride. It is understandable then, that most Asian children go along with their parents wishes. Wouldn't you?

This is also how the Asian community perpetuates its insularity.

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