Shafilea Ahmed was killed by her parents, Iftikhar and Farzana, simply for being too “Westernised”. A British jury found both parents guilty of suffocating their 17-year-old daughter to death in 2003 and gave them life sentences, an appropriate punishment for a crime as heinous as any that can be imagined. The implications of this case are likely to fester for a while as the British state grapples with the problem of integrating a nearly two-million strong Muslim population that is growing at a rapid rate but is resisting casting off its retrograde interpretation of religion. As Muslims in Britain gather in self-contained ghettos and refuse to become part of the wider culture, they continue to cling even more strongly to their outdated beliefs and impose that lifestyle on often unwilling children.
The British state will have to tread carefully when dealing with this issue. Obviously, it can never condone or excuse ‘honour’ killings but it must not be seen as scapegoating the entire Muslim community because of the actions of a small minority. One possible solution is to partner with trusted clerics who have a more enlightened view and try to marginalise preachers who spew hate. This effort should encompass many different areas, from the rights of children to the tolerance of non-Muslims. The 7/7 London bombings are still fresh in the minds of many in Britain. Rather than use that as a reason to further marginalise an alienated community, British authorities need to figure out why some Muslims have essentially declared themselves at war against their own country.
In the 1980s, Norman Tebbit, a minister in the Margaret Thatcher government famously proposed what became known as the Tebbit Test. This test would ask immigrants if they supported England or the country of their origin in cricket. The test was correctly derided at the time as giving off a whiff of racism. Now, however, might be the time to update it. Muslim immigrants need to prove that they will respect the rights of everyone, even those in the community who may not follow the version of Islam they practice.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 5th, 2012.
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