I find the Misbah Â“MollyÂ” Rana story to be a particularly interesting one insofar as it seems to very handily illustrate the whole Â“desi-but-not-desiÂ” 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 unitsÂ—Â“go abroad to study, only speak English at school, but then come back here as soon as you graduate, because weÂ’re alone and need you, and everyone hates Muslims in the West and donÂ’t you dare question anything we say because weÂ’re a good traditional family and thatÂ’s just how things are.Â”
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, PakistanÂ’s largest English newspaper stated today that the Lahore High Court has ordered MisbahÂ’s return to Scotland. In particular, I was struck by a comment made by one of the judges, who Â“said that when he had a chat with Misbah she had no perception about Â‘halalÂ’ and Â‘haramÂ’ and could not distinguish between the two. She also did not know how to offer prayers according to Islamic injunctions.Â”
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 Â“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.Â”
Great. Lovely. WeÂ’ve discovered the ratio decidendi for the case, allÂ’s well. What I find amusingÂ—and slightly worryingÂ—though, is that fact that apparently MisbahÂ’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 donÂ’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 thatÂ’s really important (yes, I know itÂ’s not the Â“realÂ” 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 Â“he drinks and has pre-marital sex, so he kind of deserved to be suspended, neener-neenerÂ”.
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 MisbahÂ’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 canÂ’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 matterÂ…well, that disturbs me somewhat. ItÂ’s a trend I see going on amongst some of my peers as wellÂ—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.