Review: Walking through new battlegrounds

Published: May 28, 2016
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Raza’s book explores discrimination in an education system that seeks conformity.

Raza’s book explores discrimination in an education system that seeks conformity.

KARACHI: If the latest US election campaign is anything to go by, there appears to be a groundswell of support for radical ideas against Muslims in general and after recent events some of that anger has diverted towards Pakistan.

It is in the backdrop of this that a book by Pakistani-American researcher Fawzia Reza called ‘The effects of the September 11 terrorist attack on Pakistani-American parental involvement in US schools’ offers an important, if initial insight.

The book attempts to dissect the impact events such as 9/11, the subsequent war on terror and the corresponding rise in xenophobia has had on the immigrant Pakistani-American population and particularly the impact on their children while at school.

It offers some of Reza’s research from Pakistani-American parents in southern California and their apprehensions on participating in curricular activities of their children.

Under the microscope

This is critical for, as Reza notes, there is precious little research which has been conducted on this subset of the American-Muslim community which has been in sharp focus after the San Bernardino shootings by a Pakistani-American and his Pakistani wife.

A lack of openness coupled with an increasingly hostile environment towards Muslims in general and, in some instances, against Pakistanis in particular not only alienate students but also their parents. And while this chain may start at the school level it extends into the society by reinforcing negative stereotypes.

Pakistani-American parents don’t partake in school activities of their children. The school and the teacher’s inability to understand particular community characteristics along with a failure to address integration barriers for new immigrants means children and their parents are alienated and in some cases even discriminated against.

This, Reza argues, has a direct impact on the child’s motivation for participating in academics with consequential impact on their education and may breed resentment against the system.

Unable to cope with their studies and picked on by classmates, such children are isolated and are quite literally driven into the arms of those who may comfort them, which, in some instances, may include gangs, mafias and even terrorists.

But to say that this is the prevalent picture of Pakistani-Americans in the US after 9/11 would be grossly incorrect.

Where Reza’s research has value, it suffers from being short on empirical data. Her field of view for this timely and topical research is far too narrow and fails to account for many, if not all the variables.

She needs to conduct greater quantitative and qualitative analysis which separates the Pakistani-Americans and their treatment from the umbrella of the American-Muslim. Given the title of the book, this aspect was unaddressed.

Title: The effects of the September 11 terrorist attack on Pakistani-American parental involvement in US schools

Author: Fawzia Reza

ISBN: 978-1-4985-0860-5

Pages: 158

The writer is a senior subeditor at The Express Tribune’s National Desk

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2016.

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