Category Archives: Afghans in West

More Afghan Stereotypes in Alphas

Episode 2×8: Falling (Plot Summary)

Alphas
Alphas

It was really annoying. Rachel has a boyfriend (Steve Byers) and she is planning to take him to meet her parents for dinner.

She is trying to prepare him for the visit so that her parents are impressed. Let me tell you that almost everything she said to her boyfriend is so greatly exaggerated and is ridiculous.

I have family members who are married to non-Afghans and I am very sure the first meeting did not go down as it is anticipated in this episode.

Here are a couple of the gems:

  • if her parents offer food, he should eat it all no matter what
  • he should not compliment anything otherwise her parents will give that to him as gift and then later on talk about it as if he stole it.

Ridiculous! In most cases, people who become modern, like Pirzads, they, in majority of cases, lose certain aspects of Afghan culture that conflict or that might make them “look bad” in front of their western friends. Besides, most people who have spent most of their lives in west understand how to treat a non-Afghan differently so they are not uncomfortable. Either Pirzads are the new standard for FOBish behaviour or the writers are trying to make a comedy of Afghan’s hospitality. Epic fail, either way!

Fair enough, Afghans can be a little pushy at the table, offering food too much and too often, that can be annoying to some people, but she was making it look really awful.

The show goes into the details of the lives of all main characters. Their families are an important part of the character building and I can appreciate that putting someone with an “exotic” ethnicity in the mix might  make things more interesting. But that was far enough… but no they had to bring up the stereotypes as if Muslims and Afghans in particular are not being targeted enough in reality.

Even, if the Pirzads were more traditional or if they were new to America, most of those issues were just over the top. But Pirzads  have lived there most of their lives, raised their kids, established their own business and are very liberal and that is why this whole thing is so annoyingly idiotic.
I could be OK with it, if it were a comedy. In comedy you have to use the stereotypes to make people laugh. But this is not a comedy and it certainly didn’t make me laugh. As a matter of fact, it was rather tragic to know how little they knew.

Other than that, show is getting really interesting and the events seem to be turning more in favour of the ‘good’ Alphas.  Dr. Rosen turning his own daughter in, Kat finding out some aspect of her past, Hicks and his son finally understanding each other and above all the drug that makes you invincible ; the whole thing was really neat.

Afghan Girls and the Dilemma of Marriage

Contributed by Haya

Afghan girls and Dilemma of Marriage

Except for the monks, priests and nuns who wish to remain celibate and dedicate their lives in worshiping God, sacrificing affection, love, partnership and children then this article will not interest you. The rest of us who are too selfish to do so may read on.

Now, I’m not going to talk about the wedding expenses or what marriage in itself looks like as I haven’t got the experience to do so and my version may mislead many of those who wish to be realistic about it – which is probably the best way to do it. Thanks to the many hours dedicated to Bollywood movies that have forever ingrained in me the hope that I will find Raj and I will be his Simran have probably set my expectations bar way too high that if I jump to pull it back down I wouldn’t reach.
However, what I can be useful for is to give a little walk into the mind of single Afghan girls who suffer the pressures of the community and society at large that have been put on her when finding her spouse. Of course this will not be a general account but I will do my best to incorporate what I can of every version of an Afghan girl from the highly conservative to the “ultramodern”.

Buckle up guys, you heard it here first from some random anonymous claiming to be a single Afghan girl but for all you know can be a balding Afghan father crying out to single Afghan men out there to give their daughters the benefit of the doubt.

For starters let’s begin with the fundamentals that apply to every version of an Afghan girl whether she fears God or fears getting caught by her dad.

Introducing the AGE BRACKET!
That’s right folks we have an expiry date. 17-26 if you aint married in this bracket you have one of the following;

  1. A past that everyone knows about
  2. In love with an Indian or a White boy
  3. Has no idea how to wrap up a quick Qabeli palao
  4. Has a tongue so sharp she strikes before you serve

If she’s lucky and ends up being a Doctor or a Lawyer then they might forgive her a couple of years otherwise she has no reason to be picky and it serves her right for still being single! That ought to show her!
Second.
Anything outside the border specially Pakistani or Iranian you’ve sold your soul to the devil and you deserve to be outcast from the community and your parents for the rest of their lives will have to give apologetic smiles upon entering functions and “mehmanis” where they’ll be asked about how their foreign son-in-law is doing. This is still an exaggeration! Oh, no silly not the last part, I mean how we can only select from Afghan guys, we have families that won’t look past their own ethnicities within Afghanistan, better yet they might even tell you you’re stuck to picking from your first cousins. Enjoy!

Of course this is totally flexible to the Afghan guy. Why would I even bother talking about that? I mean his one legitimate excuse is … “Well he’s guy!” DUH!

Anyway, again we are subject to random searches that take place when our parents suspect that Mariam may just be Michael. Whether Afghan parents like it or not there’s MSN, Facebook and a plethora of other means that technology today has made possible. Seat belting them into everything they do in life will teach them to be dependent and naive forever; they might as well tie us in a straight jacket.
Either way, they are going to go behind their parents’ backs, because their hot-blooded and no amount of security will have them monitored every step of the way. Even if she does and is caught, she has tarnished her father’s name and it’s her fault for not suppressing her wishes to spend her life with someone she has a mutual understating and interest with.

I don’t see how Afghan families do not allow their daughters to have chaperoned meetings with individuals so that they may have the chance to formally meet and exercise their birth right. The girls suffer the most because we live in a box that has a ticking time bomb on it. We have to race to find the groom before the alarm beeps and we realise we are a day over the bracket.

The pressure does not only stop there. Treading softly all our life until we are married is our duty upon us. Obviously, in many cases if this does not work out then we ship her off to Afghanistan and we hand her over to the next guy that gets a wife and a free ticket to the land of the white man. Buy one, get one free!

We don’t need to treat our daughters like possessions. Women have been suffering enough as history illustrates very clearly. There is not one type of Afghan girl willing to sacrifice her list that her future husband would tick most of the boxes. There are many dynamics to her and each one whether she is traditional, conservative or modern lives a different day-to-day life in which they have different ideals and expectations that they want in a man.

As a Muslimah, I understand that Islam has freed us of the shackles of nationalism and limiting ourselves to one race.

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you people and tribes so that you may know one another” (Qur’an 49: 13)

There is nothing wrong with marrying within your own race and to limit the differences as much as possible, but only if it is an option and not a requirement.

There are many ways in which women can get to know a prospective husband the” safe way”, rather than having to wake up a day after your wedding and getting ready for work when your new husband asks you “Where do you think you’re going?”

Marriage is the biggest decision of our lives. There is a biological clock that we should pay attention to, but not to rush into it.
If parents teach their daughters that they are free to choose and select their life partner but to consult that matter as a family and to exercise that right in a manner pleasing and safe and stop shipping off their daughters and making them someone else’s problem when they “deviate”. The problem can be nipped in the bud.

Parents play a major role in every child’s life and being brought up with Afghan values and the culture is to be respected. However, we should keep in mind that times are changing and Afghan girls are no longer submissive and will not allow to be treated how they were back in the days. We have rights that are given to us and being able to select our life partner without feeling like running a marathon is an obvious one.

In conclusion, if you are still here reading then congratulations you are one step better at knowing what we deal with.

Bottom line is that the only way for an Afghan girl to get married is not with her cousin, who she calls her brother one day and is then walking down the aisle hand in hand with him the next day because her parents weren’t able to trust anyone else. She does not need to be shipped off and made somebody else’s business either (although this is not a bad idea sometimes but there may be backlash).

Taking your sweet time cruising through life and then realising the only way you will have kids is through IVF or adopting isn’t the way to go either and neither am I trying to say we need to be treated like princess’s. There needs to be a balance of what someone is comfortable with. As Afghans are pretty divided when it comes to being traditional, conservative or westernised, every family will have a different take on the issue. We just need to sit back a little and stop standing on our toes all the time. Otherwise it’s just a vicious cycle that never ends and creates more problems than it does solutions.

 

Muslims’ Obsession with Christmas

Muslims and Christmas
Muslims and Christmas

Every year close to Christmas you would see forums, blogs, chat rooms where some Muslims are talking about how Christmas has nothing to do with Jesus and Christians are wrong to celebrate it, and how it is not mentioned in the Bible.

It is one thing to tell your fellow Muslims not to celebrate Christmas and not to say “Merry Christmas”, but to keep talking about how wrong of the Christians to celebrate this is just ridiculous. Even a Da’wah TV program called “The Deen Show” had an interview with some scholar about the fact that Santa is not in the Bible.

Obviously we cannot get our priorities right. There are far more pressing issues that we Muslims face as a community and on individual levels. Our people are starving, war is destroying our homes, corruption is ruining our countries, yet as soon as Christmas or Easter is close, the same war against Christmas beings.

I frequent a forum that most of the members are Muslim. Every year there are new threads about all or some of the issues such as putting decorative lights up in Christmas, Saying Merry Christmas to Christians, Christmas is pagan holiday, Santa is a marketing scheme, Valentine’s day is Haram, Easter is not Christian in origin and the list goes on.

I am not sure I understand this obsession, but I am certain there are more important things in life. I thought here I’d give a list of activities in no particular order to delve into, instead of wasting your time offending Christians on their festive day:

  1. Volunteer to clean your local Masjid
  2. Memorize some verses of Qur’an
  3. Pray Nawafil
  4. Organise a social Halal event for Muslims
  5. Plant a tree
  6. Collect donation for the needy
  7. Prepare meal for homeless
  8. Volunteer at a shelter
  9. Register for foster parenting (You will be amazed how many Muslim kids need foster parenting)
  10. Take your parents out for dinner
  11. Go to YouTube and listen to a lecture
  12. Update your blog
  13. Donate to a charity organisation of your choice
  14. Tutor your younger siblings
  15. Read a story to little kids
  16. Prepare a meal for your family
  17. Recite longer Surrahs in your prayer
  18. Pick up your phone and call a friend that you haven’t spoken for a while
  19. Visit your grand parents
  20. Visit the Blog Etcetera and leave a comment or two.

The Afghan Alpha II: Pirzads Having a Party

Episode 8: A Short Time in Paradise (Plot Summary)

I am still watching Alphas. Slightly losing interest, but I am still watching. I like Gary.

Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad in Alphas
Azita Ghanizada as Rachel Pirzad in Alphas

So Rachel is going to her sister’s engagement party. She is trying to get herself a date to the party so she is not “auctioned off” to her “third cousins” and not having to go on “blind dates” with them.

Now, here is what happens to the majority of Afghan girls who turn in to their sister’s engagement party with a “date”. Well, it does not happen. It is unheard of except in very rare cases of, oh, so liberal families who probably have not much to do with the rest of Afghan community.

Let us say we all wake up one day it has become somewhat normal for an Afghan girl to take a white male co-worker as her “date”, she will definitely have to buy him a nice black suit and a tie that matches her top.

Let me also let you in on another secret about Afghans. Although marrying cousins is quite normal, not all of us marry our cousins. Surprisingly most of us in west marry from other families. Even in cases of arranged marriages, it is still outside own families. Probably mother of the guy sees a girl in a gathering. Then she calls few places to identify the girl, and then find someone who is close friend of that family and asked them if they could talk to the family and organise a visit.

Another thing, the girl’s family do not usually approach to a man or to his family or in Rachel’s terms “auction off” their daughter. In majority of cases, even if it is a love marriage and the two know each other, fell in love and all, when families get involved, the  man’s family would find out about the girl’s family. They then call and ask if they can visit, then they go to the girl’s house. Get to know them, talk about their son who is very respectful, educated and responsible who loves his family, etc. Similarly, the girl’s family would talk about how many other families are interested in their daughter, who is very pretty and educated and loves her siblings, etc. They never act desperate as shown in Rachel’s case.

Let us make one thing clear. It is not unheard of Afghan girl ending up with non-Afghan and non-Muslim guy, but generally nobody knows about such relationship until they are engaged and the guy supposedly converts to Islam and has a Muslim name. Yasin and Yousuf are in public demand. In addition, being in a premarital relationship is not something you would announce to everyone in your sister’s engagement. Therefore, when you turn up with a “date” people will talk about you. There is nothing surprising about it. You are an Afghan and supposedly a Muslim, so you should not engage in dating and whatever comes with it. Doing that and then announcing it in your sister’s engagement party is simply asking for negative attention and hurting and embarrassing your family. Unless, that is exactly your intention. Even those who date generally keep it a secret.

But the talk will not be “Oh I feel sorry for her mother.” or “Her poor mom.” It probably will come up, but in most cases, they will be like “Is that guy with Rachel? Oh man, he is in jeans. How embarrassing!” or comments like “Why is Rachel not wearing something fancy? After all it is her sister’s engagement.” “Is she dating an American now? What a shame!”

Here is another one, in an Afghan gathering the host family would try very hard not to make a scene. If Rachel tells her father that he needs to go to the doctor, the dad will probably say, “I will see”. Then Rachel will say, “Promise me you will, dad!” and then the dad will possibly get mad and without yelling, make an angry face saying, “Ok. I got it. I will. Now get out of my face with your crazy boyfriend.”

The rest of the Episode 8 was ok, I guess. It was those inaccuracies that got me thinking and wrote this. Perhaps, writers should do a little research before writing and making generalized statements.

The Afghan Bazaar or Boat Bazaar?

Dandenong is home of great diversity in Melbourne. Like other parts, there are people from different backgrounds living in this heavily multicultural suburb. Rightly so, it is known as the most culturally diverse suburb in Victoria.

Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong
Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong

Afghan businesses have flourished in Dandenong for the past 10 years or so. Specially, Thomas Street is home to many Afghan businesses including restaurants and takeaways, Afghan carpet and rugs stores, Afghan groceries and more. In 2009 after the successful precinct branding of Little India, the Afghan traders advocated for the development of a recognisable brand for Thomas Street. The project was implemented by the City of Greater Dandenong in 2009 and later on the Afghan Bazaar Tour was developed for tourists to have a taste of Afghan culture in the heart of Victoria.

Recently the City of Greater Dandenong has undertaken Afghan Bazaar Streetscape Enhancement Project in Thomas Street Dandenong. Many members of the community have shown interest in this project. There has been face-to-face meetings and workshops, and the City of Greater Dandenong has welcomed opinions from all member of Afghan community.

Some days ago, I received an SMS from a friend suggesting that some members of Afghan community are advocating for changing the name of Afghan Bazaar to something that is either more specific to one ethnic group or strangely enough “Boat Bazaar”. Initially I thought it was just a rumour but this was confirmed by other more active members of the community.

Afghans have been part of the diverse Australian community for over 200 years since the arrival of the cameleers. Contribution of Afghan community is not a new trend that started after arrival of “boat people” but it is well-documented in Australian history. As a matter of fact the rebranding of Thomas Street as Afghan Bazaar was to recognise the contribution of Afghans from the time of the cameleers to date and not that of a particular ethnic group. This is visible from the branding logo.

It will be a sad day for Afghan community in Melbourne to lose this

Afghan Bazaar, Dandenong Photo by: Star Community

recognition to a particular group of people who are trying to score political point. Besides, entertaining the idea of rebranding Afghan Bazaar to “Boat Bazaar” is unethical. This will encourage the arrival of illegal migrants that has caused a lot of issues in the country whether due to unfortunate deaths of boat people or political controversies.

I have always voiced my concern about arrival of illegal migrants and the fact that many people undeservingly used the prosecution of certain ethnic groups in Afghanistan in their advantage to get residency status in Australia. I am not suggesting that all those people were lying about their situation in Afghanistan, but I know for a fact that many people arrived to Australia from Middle East or Pakistan who have used their background to gain sympathy from Australian government and now they are promoting a dangerous and ethnocentric ideology. No matter what ethnic group we belong to, we came to this country as Afghan migrants and anyone denying this fact has a personalised and political agenda.

I do not believe the City of Greater Dandenong will agree to changing the name, however to know that there are people in Australia who would promote such ideas is a cause for concern.

Images from  the City of Greater Dandenong

The Afghan Alpha

Azita Ghanizada in Alphas
Azita Ghanizada in Alphas

American TV Channel, Syfy, has recently started a new TV show, Alphas. It is about a group of people with extraordinary abilities.

Azita Ghanizada, an Afghan-American is playing the role of Rachel Pirzad, An Afghan girl whose superpower is magnifying her senses.

Rachel Pirzad is not an assertive woman. She is portrayed as a woman with this amazing superpower who is very passive. The show does not directly link her passiveness to her background but indirectly shows some relevance.

Her family considers her condition as an illness and feels that this illness may cause her to live alone for the rest of her life.  In the story, her mother is trying to arrange her marriage with someone that she has not met yet. It also shows that her parents are obsessed with her way of clothing. The first scene she appears in episode 1 she is telling her dad that her skirt covers her knees. Very typical, indeed!

First, when I watched the show, I was a little angry for stereotyping. I even found it insulting. However, later I realized that they had actually done this very accurately.

There you have a young educated Afghan woman, living with her parents. She wears western style cloths and is not fully covered, however she is required to get married with someone that her parents choose. She is allowed to stay out late, however she must not date….

The story of Rachel Pirzad is very typical of a “modern” Afghan. It is the story of all of us Afghans in west who are stuck between the three cultures. We have our Islamic values, Afghan traditions and newly discovered western trends that for most of us are dominating. Most of us find it very hard to manage all that.

The society that we live in is not compatible with most of our values. Obedience to parents and respect is seen as weakness. At the same time, parents are overly protective and inconsiderate towards their children. If you notice, Rachel is not disrespectful to her parents. She is trying to have a voice and make her own choices. Her parents are pushy indeed, but do not seem to be the cruel type. All they want for their daughter is to have a secure future with a decent man from a decent family.

In the latest episode, there is a guy who has the ability to make people around him angry to the extent that they start rioting. In one scene when he uses his ability where all Alpahs are present, Rachel is on the phone with her mother. She becomes angry, starts yelling and telling her mother to shut-up and that she hates her, and that she will move out; the worst things that you could say to your parents, especially if you are Afghan. It is not clear whether she has decided to leave home or she was kicked out (which I doubt). However, she says to Nina (Laura Mennell) that she will stay with her cousin. Nina offers her to move in with her.

I am not sure why so much attention was paid to her life outside Alpha team. So far I haven’t been able to see any relevance. I am not sure how they are going to shape Rachel’s story in later episodes. It seems that there will not be good relations between her parents and her in the next few episodes, which is sad, really. She didn’t intend for it to happen that way and her parents are not bad at all. It cannot be said whether she will meet the man her mother found for her, or whether she will move back with her parents. Alternatively, it could be that her moving out becomes a pivotal point in her life and she can fully focus on her power.

We will have to wait and see.

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