The curious case of Aisha Khan
The whole world had been captivated with the saga of Aisha Khan, a 19-year-old Kansas student of Pakistani origin who had mysteriously vanished after leaving an alarming voice mail about being harassed by a drunk man. When Khan’s sister arrived to pick her up, all she found were her abandoned bag and cell phone near her favourite study spot.
Her family had left no stone unturned in getting word out about her disappearance, utilising social media such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as national media outlets.
Her father gave a heart wrenching, emotional plea on national television for the safe return of his daughter, while her husband appeared on Good Morning America saying he feared his wife had been kidnapped.
Hundreds of volunteers had donated their time and effort to look for her. The police had spent considerable man hours on the case as well. The family even offered a $10 000 reward for any information that could lead to her being found. Thousands of people around the world were praying for her.
After all of that, it turns out that Aisha Khan was safe and sound; she had not been abducted, nor was she held against her will.
While her family was understandably relieved, people that had invested their time, efforts and emotions in her search are demanding answers, which the police is refusing to divulge.
"The most important fact for us all to remember is that she is safe," Police Chief John Douglass said. "Everything else is now a personal family matter and we respect their privacy."
While everyone is relieved that she was found alive and unharmed, people want to know why she did not let the police and public know that she was safe, and that she had gone away on her own accord when it became obvious that so many resources were being utilised to locate her.
Some Muslims believe this will damage the already tarnished view mainstream Americans have of them, and the next time something like this happens, people will be less likely to go out of their way and help.
Reading the various comments on the articles about her disappearance online, as well as on the Find Aisha Facebook page, you can already see some prevalent themes ranging from forced marriages and honour killings to condemning the whole thing as a publicity stunt by an attention-starved teenager.
Questions are being raised about the timing of the voicemails and the fact that she left her bag and cell phone behind.
I do agree with the fact that if it turns out to be a publicity stunt, less people might go out of their way to help someone that might really need it, but I personally believe that we should refrain from condemning her just yet because we do not have all of the information at the moment.
To all the Muslims out there worried about the impact this might have on our image, let it go. Islam is a religion to over a billion people. We cannot control the actions of each and every Muslim.
Be it Veena Malik or be it Aisha Khan, sometimes we are going to receive news that we might not be comfortable with. We have to look at this as news about people who just happen to be Muslim, because whatever happened, no one has chosen them to be representatives of the whole Muslim race, neither do they claim to be.
When people of other faiths commit a horrendous crime or do something embarrassing they are blamed on an individual basis and their religion is never called into question.
When Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir were arrested for spot-fixing, Pakistanis were aghast that they had brought shame upon Muslims. However, Christians never fretted when Hanse Cronje was arrested.
Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have both done stunts a lot “bolder” than a topless shoot. Both even proudly display a cross around their neck, yet they are never condemned for bringing Christianity into disrepute.
One of the most sickening stories of the past few years was that of Joseph Fritzl. What religion was he from? It was never even brought up as anything relevant. Would that have even been the case if (God forbid) he had been Muslim?
Muslims have to stop believing that individuals can shame a whole religion, only then can we expect people of other faiths not to judge us by the questionable actions of some.
Losing a child is a horrific ordeal for anyone, and let us pray, that none of us ever has to go through it.