Who’s objecting?

I find the Misbah “Molly” Rana story to be a particularly interesting one insofar as it seems to very handily illustrate the whole “desi-but-not-desi” dialectic that many of my peers and I seem to have undergone over the years. Well, in my case the whole social misfit scenario was a little bit more complicated, what the liking of the mens and the persistent crushing on Saif Ali Khan (call me!), but leaving that aside, there were always certain cultural divides that we were constantly trapped within, both self-imposed and those brought to bear by the parental units—“go abroad to study, only speak English at school, but then come back here as soon as you graduate, because we’re alone and need you, and everyone hates Muslims in the West and don’t you dare question anything we say because we’re a good traditional family and that’s just how things are.”

My caveat, since this seems to have been cropping up just a teeny-tiny bit: I am not making any representations as to a multitude of opinions, perspectives or experiences other than my own, as a gay Pakistani male from a fairly privileged social background. I just want to put that out there so I donÂ’t have to spend another forty minutes deleting angry e-mails accusing me of trivialising the desi experience, because in case anyoneÂ’s confused, IÂ’m not Indian, IÂ’m not British, IÂ’m not American, and seriously I donÂ’t really claim to speak with any authority on issues relating to any/all of those perspectives.Moving right along, for those of you who may not be familiar with this story, Wikipedia has a fairly decent back-story entry about it, but the short version is something like this: Misbah Iram Ahmed Rana is a 12-year-old half Scottish-Pakistani girl who gained some measure of notoriety a few months ago when she and her father (the parents are divorced) flew to Lahore without informing MisbahÂ’s mother, who freaked the hell out and accused her ex-husband of kidnapping the girl in order to make her into a child-bride. Sajad Rana (the father) and Misbah, on the other hand, claim(ed) that the decision to go to Lahore was MisbahÂ’s, and that she wanted to move to Pakistan in order to live with her father and two of her siblings.

Now the semantics of the case are what make it interesting. A news report from the Dawn, Pakistan’s largest English newspaper stated today that the Lahore High Court has ordered Misbah’s return to Scotland. In particular, I was struck by a comment made by one of the judges, who “said that when he had a chat with Misbah she had no perception about ‘halal’ and ‘haram’ and could not distinguish between the two. She also did not know how to offer prayers according to Islamic injunctions.”

The point of the court order was clarified further on in the article, with the legal opinion being based on the fact that the father had “brought her to Pakistan without approaching the competent court and violated the orders of Scottish courts. This removal is flagrantly illegal, deceitful and a dishonest act, the court observed. The court held that Mr Rana had not been an upright, fair and honest man in this case and was guilty of showing disrespect to the court’s orders, which was tantamount to fraud. And thus he could not be allowed to have the premium of such fraud.”

Great. Lovely. We’ve discovered the ratio decidendi for the case, all’s well. What I find amusing—and slightly worrying—though, is that fact that apparently Misbah’s religious knowledge, or lack thereof, seemed to be influential (at least to one of the judges) in the decision as to whether or not she should be allowed to stay in the country. Hell, I know the differences (and just don’t really care that much), and I know how to pray (more on that later, but how MUCH do I love Eid?), but good grief, pop me in a kilt and send me over to Glasgow if that’s really important (yes, I know it’s not the “real” reason, but I need something to work with here). There was a somewhat similar moment some time ago involving a comment made by a member of the Pakistan Cricket Board regarding the suspension of fast bowler Shoaib Akhter, which basically came down to “he drinks and has pre-marital sex, so he kind of deserved to be suspended, neener-neener”.

I canÂ’t believe I just referenced cricket. I feel so fucking butch right now.

I suppose that I just find it interesting that this comment regarding Misbah’s religious knowledge was enough of a factor to (a) be mentioned in the article, and (b) count as a strike against her appeal to be allowed to remain in Pakistan. Once again, I make no representations as to the sincerity or nature of the motivations that prompted said appeal, but I can’t help but wonder just how or why it was considered relevant enough to be brought up in conversation. Maybe this is making a mountain out of a molehill, but the very fact that religion spills over into what is ostensibly very much a secular and legal matter…well, that disturbs me somewhat. It’s a trend I see going on amongst some of my peers as well—more and more of us, who moved back from the US and the UK for a variety of reasons ranging from racist abuse to the Patriot Act and fear of deportation for pretty much any reason, are coming back to religion as the prime motivator for their return. While I bear no one any grudges as far as religious (dis)belief goes, I do find myself wondering how much of these returns to Allah are based in actual faith and how many are predicated on the notion that by re-embracing faith, the transition back into a society that traditionally remained somewhat unwelcoming will be made smoother. Is it just another flailing attempt to somehow locate a sense of cultural proprioceptive identity, or is there something more genuine behind it? I wonder at how widespread the theocratic notion of identity, legitimacy and/or agency will become.

106 thoughts on “Who’s objecting?

  1. From the article in ANNA’s comment #42

    a girl who was – she claims – racially abused and called a “Paki”.

    From the picture in that article, she doesnt look “Paki” at all. Here you decide

    Sorry for the tangential comment.

  2. From the picture in that article, she doesnt look “Paki” at all.

    What I gathered from the articles I read, is that it was her stepfather calling her Paki… doesn’t matter what she looked like, just the fact that she’s half Pakistani is enough to make it a perfect sore spot in a fight between husband and wife when stepdad’s drunk.

    She looks just like mum, and adorable in orange salwar kameez 🙂

    I just hope that she’s able to rise above the nasty custody politics and unneeded media attention to become a well-adjusted adolescent who doesn’t need too much therapy….. 🙂

  3. Akh!Just exactly what is a “Paki” supposed to look like? Speaking as a Pakistani, we’ve got blond-haired, green-eyed folk, among our bunch. And it is possible that whoever racially abused her didn’t have to look at her to know she has a Pakistani father. So no one really needs to decide or judge whether she looks it or not, or does that make her story more credible?

  4. Ah, I meant whoever racially abused her knew that she has a Pakistani father, like what Andrea suggests. I’m sleep deprived, apologies.

  5. I just hope that she’s able to rise above the nasty custody politics and unneeded media attention to become a well-adjusted adolescent who doesn’t need too much therapy….. 🙂

    Mmmm … custardy politics

  6. Poor Misbah/Molly’s fate to live in a world where choosing either one of those names brings up two v different connotations for many in the West…

    if she’s Misbah she needs to get sent packing back to Scotland, that country in second only to Wales in being Most Fucking Boring Place in Western Europe. If she’s Molly then her Muslim Pakistani heritage clearly doesn’t matter because she looks like she can ‘pass’ for a Molly anyway.

    I hope she keeps rocking her bright salwars wherever she lives 🙂 I think Sriram’s comment before about the process being more important than the policy is true for the British legal system. Also the fact is that most judges in western legal systems belong to a certain social group (say it along with me kids), white middle class males, whose basic knowledge of anyone from Third World countries is a glorious combination of immgigration/anti terrorism laws, World Vision ads, token characters in movies and boiled orange cream with boneless chicken masquerading as a curry…

    as in the country where I live, many UK judges would rely on a rudimentary judgment of how much a young brown minor knows about traditional foods, clothing and religious practices before deciding which country they can live in.

    I have to say I agree with Sin’s view that realigning oneself with traditional religion has become a mechanism for some people to find a shortcut to getting a perfectly clear cut identity…I just hope Molly/Misbah realises wherever she lives, that for many of us including her, there is no such thing. She should be proud of both her names, just like both her pics with her parents show her Scottish and Pakistani heritage.