Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Muslim girls struggle with 'competing' cultures

From the Vancouver Sun

Many live double lives, expert says of slain teen's family conflict

Katie Rook and Amy Smithers
CanWest News Service

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Aqsa Parvez

Aqsa Parvez

Photo courtesy of Ebonie Mitchell

TORONTO -- Many Muslim girls in Canada lead something of a double life when it comes to reconciling religious traditions while living in a secular, Western society, says a researcher at Wilfrid Laurier University.

"At home they're the good Muslim kid, they pray and they fast and go to mosque," said Jasmin Zine, a professor of sociology at the Waterloo, Ont., school.

"When they go to school they become a different person. They create a persona to fit with the competing cultural demands of home and school."

Zine made the comments Tuesday, the day after 16-year-old Aqsa Parvez of Mississauga, Ont., died. Her father Muhammad Parvez has been charged with murder and her 26-year-old brother, Waqas Parvez, has been charged with obstructing police.

A classmate at Applewood Heights secondary school said Tuesday Aqsa had worn her hijab, the traditional Muslim head scarf, in a variety of ways. Then in September, she started to go bare-headed -- a decision which apparently grated on some members of her family.

"She just chose to remove the hijab because she wanted to be like everyone else and her parents were pushing her, I guess," said Nadine Abrahim, 16.

"Last year [Aqsa] wore it. Maybe at the end she started removing it a bit. Like, showing a bit of her hair. And then this year she just completely removed it. She would take it off when she came to school, even change her clothes."

In her research with Muslim girls, Zine said, she has rarely encountered youth who are being coerced into wearing a hijab by their parents.

Still, many Muslim girls are unsure what line to tread between Islamic mores and the Western behaviour they see all around them.

She said some Muslim youth will alter their names to make them sound more English.

Girls may start to wear cosmetics but when some of them go home, they don the hijab.

The head covering is a way to identify yourself as a Muslim, Zine added.

Zine said Muslim scholars are not unanimous on whether the hijab is mandatory. "So for those who choose not to wear it," she said, "they are then sometimes seen as being less pious, that they are leaving Islam."

The decision whether to don the hijab is not always difficult for Muslim girls, says Ausma Khan, a human rights lawyer and the editor-in-chief of Muslim Girl Magazine. But, she acknowledges, the hijab has become a flashpoint.

"It can so easily be taken for a signal of difference and otherness and alienation, but it doesn't have to be read like that," she said. Khan, 38, is now based in Los Angeles, but grew up in Canada. "There is definitely an American-Islam or a Canadian-Islam that has imbibed the reality of growing up in a pluralistic society that accommodates difference, that respects difference," she said.

"I think we see that. We see this in the practice of this generation of young women. They are accommodating. Just as they want to put their own view point forward, have their religious freedom and be protected, they are equally willing to recognize and respect the rights of others."
© The Vancouver Sun 2007

No comments: