Thursday, December 10, 2009

Expectations from Children Raised Outside of Their Native Culture

Some time ago, this awesome Pashtun lady friend of mine reported to me that my nephew (six years old then) had called her by her real name. My response: a loud gasp followed by a scolding for my sweet innocent nephew darling followed by sincere apologies to the Aunty.

That didn’t teach my nephew anything.

So the Aunty and I talked about it, and we realized that when our children are being raised outside our areas, we *expect* them to uphold the same values that we were *taught* to uphold when we were growing up. There’s a difference. Back home, parents don’t have to work as hard on their children because practically everyone around them believes the same way; society works together to raise the children of all the families, so the parents aren’t burdened entirely. But when these parents come to the west, or migrate to some other society where their cultures and religions begin to clash, should they have the same expectations of their children that they would if the children were being raised in their motherland?

Pukhtuns living abroad don’t have it easy, especially when they’re born and raised here. There will inevitably come those phases of loss, of insecurity, of identity crisis. Our parents punish us when we do something wrong that we didn’t know was wrong because they never told us that it’s wrong. This is a big mistake on the parents’ side – whether Pashtuns or not – because what’s right or wrong, what’s appropriate or inappropriate (particularly in light of our religion or culture) is nothing “obvious”; it’s something we learn from people around us based on the way they practice or promote/reject what is considered appropriate or inappropriate by them.

Did anyone ever tell my nephew that he’s not supposed to call elders, or anyone older than him by four years, by their real name? No. Has there been a need? Not really. Why? Because he’s not being raised around many Pukhtuns. He knows that he can’t call his parents, grandparents, and teachers by their real names, but he doesn’t know why. No one has told him the why, and no one seems to think he should be taught why. It’s as if it’s “common sense” that all people should KNOW not to call elders by their real names. Yeah, okay, it *becomes* common sense when we’re being raised in a society where everyone shares almost the exact same values and no one's necessarily directly taught how to behave and believe (as it's mostly based on observations and the sort of education we receive both inside and outside our homes), but how can we expect it to be common sense for those who are being raised in other cultures? As I said, I think even when we’re raised inside our culture, we’re not told the *why* to most things. We just know we’re supposed to behave a certain way often without understanding the significance of it. I’m against this no-explanations-provided part of our culture (and religion… that is, when religion is taught to us by those who themselves don’t know what the answers to the questions starting with “why” are) because I don’t think one can really appreciate and wholeheartedly cherish something – in our case, Pukhtunwali and Islam – if one does not understand it. And why should anyone have to go through various troubling phases to finally understand and then appreciate Pukhtunwali and/or Islam?

So this is just a note to those who are parents outside their native culture and expect their children to behave in a way that they’d be expected back home. Teach them. Help them understand. Try to understand them as well. Try not to punish or blame them when they don’t understand because I swear it’s not easy accepting something that’d make sense in one culture but makes absolutely none in another, and you fall in between, hence being a representative of neither. It's almost like standing between two cities, with one of your feet on the side of one city and the other foot on the other city, with a large gap -- say, a river -- between the two. See? The pressure and pain (the gap) is such that you can literally drown in it.


  1. A very important issue and thanks Qrratugai for pointing out such important excellent piece and there are a lot of good points to share. As always its a pleasure reading such thought provoking articles on your Blog :).......Insha-Allah yao so khabarey ba bey kome kho bya ka kher wee :)

  2. Khugman wrora! Yao kho sta da procrastination da habit! kho marra da so khabarey wa ka kana! lol

  3. Manana, Khugman wrora!
    I think it's an important topic as well and not given much attention. Maybe because of the much more bigger issues we have, we neglect the smaller ones ... even though the smaller ones may be easier to tackle and we don't have to ignore the bigger ones.

    Khair ... khwdey de khair kee.

  4. @Spogmai:"Khugman wrora! Yao kho sta da procrastination da habit!......"

    LOL!....yes you are right :) kho za bakhana ghwaram...a bit tangled up at work related deadlines thats ma aw Qrratugai kho statso de research articles especially za kho ye oyarawalum. B'cause we just write something that comes in our minds and you guys.....taso kho sum da aplatoon palsapey bayan better to write something a little well thought and properly prepared.
    By the way Spogmai da taso waley sa na oolikal?....I know u'd have already something under your sleeves kho buss zamung da awto bawto pa intizaar yai kasa bya ba ye halo

  5. Uffffffffff........wrote such a longgg comment and blew it up...OK later frustrating :(

  6. LOL.... sorry about that, Khugmana. Bya ye waleka :D

  7. Okkkk....Che Bismillah kum :)
    I, as not very articulate in penning down my thoughts, with my little knowledge offer my thoughts so bear with me :).....and by the way these are just my thoughts and not neccassiraly who reads it would agree with me or be with me on the same page we understand that its just for the sake of discussion and to flow the thoughts out of our minds :)

    First of all it is utterly important to bear it in mind that “a civilization rests on the strength of its family values”. The most important aspect of a person’s life is “Family” as one’s upbringing defines one’s personality and it is the family environment that becomes part of one’s identity. Family values need to be inculcated in the younger minds at an early stage no matter where the family resides. From a Muslim/Pakhtoon perspective, cultivating family, cultural and Islamic values is critical in building a child’s personality and especially for children being raised in the Western society. Growing up in a Western culture where family values are not held as strictly as back home, can be a deterrent in this regard, but as Pukhtana it remains in our heritage to continue on this valuable tradition.

    @Qrratugai~you have rightly pointed out that kids/youngsters living in a Western culture, with totally different and unique heritage, many clash with the worldviews of their parents and their community; would never understand why they live a certain way and do the things different from the mainstream society. In their daily lives, they face those strange questions; Why could I never be like the others? Why do I have to do things so differently? That is usually the qualm and one of the things that spur the rejection and ignorance of family (& ultimately their beliefs and culture) by our youngsters living in the West. In an environment of overwhelming indulgent social and cultural domination how could they be different from those born to non-Pukhtana or non-Muslim parents? We know that the western society is equipped to deal with their social ills, they have created security nets for their 'problem kids' to be taken care of. But, where is the safety net for our youth? Ignorance about broader aspects of Islam and Pakhtoonwali, their own history and the society they are living is widespread. With racism and Islamophobia predominant in many of the western countries, young Muslims/ Pukhtana lack confidence and suffer from identity crisis. Personally, I have come across many Pakhtoons/Muslims who feel nervous when they are greeted with the basic traditional greeting, “Salam Alaikum” or “Pakhair/Jorr Takrra”. Some even feel embarrassed to identify themselves as Pukhtana :(. Although, many in the younger generation are re-discovering their roots and trying to assert their identity as Pukhtana and ultimately Muslims but, again what is their percentage?...........veryyy low I believe.

    Now turning to the flip side of the coin; a balanced individual on the other hand, whose life is broadened by a variety of experiences, properly raised and equipped with the basic core values who he/she understands well, will develop more empathy for others and a better sense of him/her self. The challenge of course is to re-institute Islamic values and ethos and Pakhtoonwali into modern forms. But for that to happen, Muslim scholars and our Pakhtoon community must re-conceptualize the various spheres of knowledge and society in relation to Islam and Pakhtoonwali and its fundamental principles and underlying ethos. A famous scholar once said: “Knowledge widens horizon, gives conviction and creates tranquillity in mind. Conviction moves forward a person for action, gives steadfastness, patience, perseverance, dedication and consistent commitment in life.”

  8. Parents or elders by their own example can cultivate and incorporate values in the sanctity of their homes no matter where the geographical location of that family is. The values elders espouse become the child's moral guide and form the cornerstone of his/her conscience and children possess the burgeoning integrity to operate from these values. As children imbibe these values, they quickly learn to regard themselves as persons of worth and capabilities, more respectful, proud of their identity and initiating friendship with persons who have imbibed similar basic values. Thus a set of guiding principles evolve into an impressive family life-style based on sound morals that ultimately preserve one’s beliefs, culture and traditions. Children, who have no moral compass other than enlightened self-interest, are exposed to numerous anxiety-causing experiences whether raised in their native culture or outside in alien cultures. Because of a guidance vacuum, they turn to the mass media for information and entertainment (especially these days) which often prove to be not only misguiding, but alarmingly dangerous. By incorporating basic core values in children’s daily lives, parents/elders can ward off the pernicious evils which the children face today.

    Summing up the discussion, just looking back at the topic for discussion "Expectations from Children Raised.....", I quote a scholar who once said: “Children are a trust from Allah. With the joy of parenthood come trial, temptation and test. Excessive and blind love for children leads to unfairness, injustice and tyranny. It also brings ruination to the children themselves. Failure in parental responsibility is the worst betrayal in the eyes of Allah. (al-Qur'an 8:28, 63:9)”

    If the Pukhtana/Muslim parents, elders, community members become cautious of their present obligations to their children and can focus on a challenging future, there is definitely hope in our new generation whether they live in their native culture or in a total alien and culture. In the case of residing in the west, I believe they can take the best of both worlds when they combine their native heritage and culture with their Western upbringing.

    Thank You! :)


  9. O by the way I forgot to say one more thing :)...(Qrratugai, JO akhir staso asar rabandey oosho :))

    @Qrratugai: “I’m against this no-explanations-provided part of our culture (and religion… that is, when religion is taught to us by those who themselves don’t know what the answers to the questions starting with “why” are) because I don’t think one can really appreciate and wholeheartedly cherish something – in our case, Pukhtunwali and Islam....”

    Qrratugai khorey ~ I might agree to some extent with what you have rightly mentioned, especially in the context of living in the West. I do believe that scholars in general and Muslim scholars in particular are duty bound to explore meaning across cultures and civilizations, and to stimulate exchange of ideas and experiences. I do think that the two cultures stand to benefit a great deal by learning from one another. However, we also need to do some soul searching too and have to own and accept our own short comings, realise our responsibilities before pointing fingers. Blaming religious teachers or scholars or our own Pakhtoons for our own failings won’t absolve anyone from the downfall we are facing in the shape of the erosion of our values and cultural entities as well as the vacuum being filled by religious fanatics. So we have to come out of this Ostrich mentality. We have to learn our true traditions and values ourselves, understand the true teachings of Islam (not blindly following others who don’t have the answers) and at the same time not blaming others for our own ignorance of even the basic tenets of Islam and Quran. Living in these modern times where acquiring knowledge and information about anything is just so easy and accessible, and especially for those who live in the affluent Western countries, I believe we have more opportunities and financial and intellectual resources as compared to someone living in a remote village of “Bar Swat”. However, it needs time, dedication, resources and sacrifice and we have to fully commit ourselves to that…..:)

    Thanks again!

  10. Khugmanaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! You did it! History has been made! You have maintained fair degree of objectivity! Congratulations!
    Qassam de sama ishedaley taba me wa tola wraz...taba me kha shwa sta pa post.

  11. @Spogmai:"Qassam de sama ishedaley taba me wa tola wraz...taba me kha shwa sta pa post." pa sa ke dey rana doctor hum jorr krro :) [sorry to hear that u've been so sick....Allah de kha lara!]

    Thanks a lot for your kind words!

  12. Wai, Spogmai Khaaperai!! Zaar sham darna! ~hugs~ Khwdey de daa najortya pa rohg sehat ke zar tar zara badala ka (che mung ta charta rawanarasee :p Just kidding, of course :D). Kho, na,
    Ta che last time yakhnai wahali we, za ye bya hum wahali wum ~biting nails~

    But I hope and pray your fever goes away and that you get your normal and healthy health back right away, da khaira. Aameen. ~shoots an air hug, keeping away from the germs :D~

    @ Khugman: Wah! I LOVE long posts! Khwdey de khwashala ka che dumra ugad reply de raakra :)Deeeeeera, dera manana!
    You know, I love your replies for several reasons, the main one of which is that it's VERY carefully written. (I lack that ability, in spite of my blogging since 2006! God. Teach me how! :S) You didn't generalize and you didn't jump to any conclusions about anyone/anything, and I must commend and thank you for that.

    My responses to some of your thoughts to be posted in the next comment.
    Thank you again!

  13. @Qrratugai:"Khwdey de daa najortya pa rogh sehat ke zar tar zara badala ka....."

    Aw duaganey ba warta kawo kho umeed dae ka kheree jorra shawee ba wee :)

  14. Janga janga tod sha ka na tawdegey sorr sha, wass ba da miangano pesho rashee ta ba wakhree ma ba Looking forward to Qrratugai's responses..
    Qrratugai, gwarey khyal kawa...Khugman da Bar Swat dey...dala para shareeka laro lol
    Warro pa duagano ke mu sa dhum nishta...gwarey dunya da "kha shairey" na mahrooma keegi :-p

  15. @Spogmai:"Janga janga tod sha ka na tawdegey sorr sha...." kho gwarey cherta pa zindagai ke doomra oogad post na dae likaley aw kala kala mey zrra dher sa ooghwarree che baz neem disucssion ke jawab olikum kho again that zrra matey ghunta yum likal argument & counter argument buss dagha rana dher na kegee.....baqee kho Khudai dey kher kee che Qrratugai ba mey likalo ke sa sa chinjee ra obasee :-?
    Aw Khudai dey nakee che dunya da "khe shairey" na mahrooma shoo, da kho la mung tre hees na dee awredalee. Gham ma kawai duaganey ba mo khpal dhum okhai ka kheree :)

  16. @Qrratugai:"My responses to some of your thoughts to be posted in the next comment."

    Mung yo da comments pa intizaar wo ao Spogmai kho pakey la nukoona hum ootrangawal :)....kho taso pa chutai yai da khera. Za che kher dae aw da haghey na najorra shawey nayai no khabarey atarey ba kegee.

  17. hmmmmmmmmmmmm.


    Che kala shpa she insanaan kor ke raatol she au khaanadaan she,che kala wraz she insanaan bahar khwaara she au muashira she....

    hagha mashoom che da hpl muqaami culture na bahar muhazzab(socialize) she no praday she....introducing a child to society iz called socialization....society is composed of family units....the role of family is pivotal in child's primary socialization...zaka kho Quran pa family der focus day..da plar mor,hpl hplwano khyal satal hm da de zanzeer karai de..In traditional societies like us join family with patriarchal structure inculcate values,customs,tradition,norms,folkways unconciously/conciously in a child...A strong connection between past and present..

    da Abaseen sb na pa bakhana...

    ''ka zama da shakhsiyat hadoona goray''
    nu zama da khaanadaan pukhtana okay..

    Kom mashoom che da hpl warokwali jwand nema barkha pa hpl maqami culture ke au nema barkha pa pradee culture ke tera ke no haghe ta pa sociological context ke ''Marginal person''(a person stood in two boats), waae....

    '' che neem loye she pa hpl cham ke au neem loye pa pradee cham she,
    daa zalmay bia na da deen na da saadeen she...

    socialization is of three type.1.primary socialization,2.secondary socialization,3.tersary(m doubtful about this spelling:)) sociailization...The first one occur in family ,second one in peer group,third one in school/college and open society.....Many sociologists consider primary socialization more basic and personality oriented...Here family gets superior...pukhtaana wae ''che senga ye may,hagha se ye jay''....''che da asal na aseel we,pa haslat bande aqeel we''(zama nia ba aksar wail)...

    South Aisa's countries are traditional in type carring one of the oldest civilization in their social fabrics..

    As for as West is concerned it has neucleus family structure(zachcha bachcha).The inculcator of values and ethics,the grand parents are kept aloof from Old age houses...This type of family distrub the nature of ethics and morality which we can observe among later generation..The result of this grand pa,ma distanc iz disconnection between past and present experinece sharing...with a third angle Generation gap...see thesis and anti-thesis between East and West...zaka kho pa de wakht da sher rayad sho..

    ''da maghrib da janat horey ba tre zaar kram
    da Khyber da yawe khare pukhtane na....

    (May be this iz ethnocenterism which i got in default being a pukhtoon:):)

    but mind it Pukhtoon family system is unique and special in this regard....

    This is totaly Sociological discussion which requires more inputs....dere khabare pake pate de shehnaz and all.....

    Shukar de che Khogman hpl khog zra raospardo au goyaa sho...pat rostam okhate margachee(when we were child we used margachee instead malgaree:)

    bus de yara sa lwaga da au sa yakhni:):)

    Akbar Ala Abadi address his son (Ushratee)setteld abroad like this...

    ''Ushratee kha ke to London ke hawaa bhool gaey
    Cake kho chak k sewayyon ka maza bhool gaey..(nor rana her sho)..
    da khaaro chaal ye zda kao no hpl tre her sho
    khwaar kargha hairaan pa yau au dwa ke ger sho..


  18. Nawaz Khana starrae ma shey!
    Khkuley khabarey mo likalee aw da yaw so sheroona kho mey pakey dher khwakh shoo

    "ka zama da shakhsiyat hadoona goray''
    nu zama da khaanadaan pukhtana okay..

  19. Alaaa ... zama kho da blog post beekhi heer shawey wo! Ao, Khugmana, I totally forgot what I was gonna say in response to your comments, but it wasn't gonna contradict your thoughts (for the most part, I suppose? lol), and I'm NOT going to think back and remember what I had in mind. Khwdey me de khwarza jaana laree, maazgha me wass kaar hado na kai!

  20. Pa khair raaghley, Nawaz Khana! Kha da che kala kala rakhkara she. Dera manana!

    What you've said is very important and true, the sociological side of it all. And the part about having the elders live in senior centers ... ahh, yes, it devastates me. It's really disturbing that a society has turned to such a, what *I* consider, unjust practice, with children not having time for their parents once they grow up and get married and settle on their own.
    But I've been told that in our own Pukhtun areas, people are starting to hold similar views about their parents/elders :S That more and more are finding it difficult to take care of their parents as the latter age! My! I don't wanna live to see that...


Dare to opine :)

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