Sunday, 6 May 2012

Where is Love? Insight Southampton

I attended the INSIGHT SOUTHAMPTON | WHERE IS THE LOVE ? ( event on Saturday, and Alhamdulillah it gave good pointers and reflections on the topic of family, children and love. I took extensive notes and the over-arching message was of love being about sacrifice.

Although I can write much about what I learnt (such as Wardina's point that religious Muslims need to get involved with NGOs, and Myriam's point of Muslims offering halal alternatives to employers)  I want to focus on a question that I asked and which I feel is pertinent here (for the question see the recording below, at 1 hour, 12 mins, 20 seconds).

Basically my question seemed long because I had to provide a brief overview of a crisis impacting many Muslims and non-Muslims in the Western world (and I very briefly mentioned that I believe it is or will impact the Muslim world too). But the crux of the matter is that there is a profound neglect of the needs (at a holistic level) of children that has happened due to both parents working (often due to economic necessity, or perceived necessity).

So what often happens is that by the time parents come home, much of the child's influence has been from school, but the parents are too tired and do their chores, and put the kids in front of the TV and so on. Sometimes the parents come back quite late, or one parent comes back much later than the other. All this means the child becomes less attached to the parent over the long term, and this then leads to worsening parental-child relations for the general society.

What Myriam mentioned was relevant for many situations (such as multitasking to tackle the study that parents only spent 15 minutes a week of quality time with their children currently). A lot of the things parents think they need, are just wants (like having to redecorate the house, repeatedly buying new clothes and so on), and if they cut back on that, then they realise they don't have to work as hard (less hours, or just one person working in the couple), then they can give more quality time for their children. Thus love is sacrifice.

Now I want to expand on this, since I mentioned in the question that we are dealing with a whole system. So we need a process of re-education of parents about what are really needs and wants, and how they should prioritise with their families.

It also needs parents to become more selfless, and less attracted to the dunya, so this needs an internalisation of Islam amongst them. This is done through community leaders that are excellent examples, and through encouragement and a stronger sense of brotherhood amongst the Muslims.

On the other hand, there is a belief amongst many women that they must have a career, and that they can't live without a working life. So they brainwash themselves to think that they must work, even when there are kids to look after. Thus they end up either putting the child into daycare or hiring a baby sitter. But both of those are not enough in terms of real parental contact and have side affects.

Here the community should be re-educated in terms of what their priorities are, and that neither spouse should put money over their family needs. Furthermore scientific evidence and the Islamic framework needs to be delineated as to the affects of the lack of contact from the mother vis-a-vis her child, and how that fits in with the advancement of women in the workforce. That is because whilst a woman has the right to choose to work, if neither spouse is having enough contact with the child, then there are conflicts. At the same time the Muslim community can't avoid such areas as being a doctor (with long working hours), so not entering such careers is not an option. How can one balance the needs of the child with the importance of career for many women? That is a tricky issue and needs community involvement such as pressuring firms to allow greater interaction employee's with their children at work hours, having an Islamic centre which looks after children and so on.

However the point that Myriam did not touch upon, is (as mentioned in "Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain") of the poor people who work on minimum wage and thus are forced through economic necessity to work and neglect their children.

This issue exists amongst many Muslims because of the rising problems of poor education amongst the Muslim community and that house and food prices have gone up, so the pay of one member of the family is not sufficient for the running of the family (for example a person earning £10,000 after tax and NI, at times won't have enough for the family after deducting rent/mortgage). Thus both spouses have to work due to economic demand and is not a choice.

This issue is more complex and needs a collective welfare response by the society, and thus needs political involvement by the people with the government in dealing with this.  At the same time, it requires that the Muslim community establish holistic centres which cater for the needs of such children. Again a stronger brotherhood is needed here.  Another system that is possible is that grandparents and the extended family could look after the children. But that only exists where there is an extended family system, and with the current breakdown in family values, in many places that no longer exists

Furthermore the Muslim community needs to work together with other communities, form a collective organisation, and liaise with the employers in terms of providing a better work-life balance that suits real needs of families.

I asked my question in the conference because it is important to understand what is happening in the ground of different types of people, and to highlight that we are seeing a disturbing trend amongst Muslim families (especially the increasing individualism that is destructive to marriage) and that we need to think and start real projects that try to understand and counter such problems.

The recording of the event is found here:

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