Thursday, June 2, 2022

Should Teenagers And Young Adults Be Infantilized?

By Junaid Jahangir, New Age Islam 2 June 2022 Muslim Values Rest On Meezan (Balance) Where Aisha’s Honour Is Protected By The Qur’an Just As Joseph’s Honour Is Protected By Allah Against The Advances Of Potiphar’s Wife (Zulekha). Main Points: 1. The history of genocide shows that many horrific crimes have been perpetrated by teenagers, be they in Rwanda or in Nazi Germany. 2. Whether power always lies with the older male in a sugar daddy-sugar baby “relationship”. 3. While teenagers remain accountable for their egregious actions, this accountability is greater for those who should know better. ----- Jade Fox: Ten years I devoted to you, but you deceived me! You hid the manual's true meaning. I never improved but your progress was limitless. You know what poison is? An eight-year-old girl full of deceit. That's poison! ~ Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) Syeda Dania Shah, who was reportedly 18 at the time of her marriage to an almost 50-year-old televangelist, Aamir Liaquat Hussain, has recently claimed that she was 15 at the time of her marriage. This has allowed some to refer to her as a “child” in a bid to remove any agency from her actions. Despite the fact that she has asked for Rs. 115 million in marriage settlement and Rs. 100,000 in monthly expenditures, some are projecting her as a brave “child” in a conservative society that is rigged against her. This allows one to question when does agency or accountability start and whether the male or the older person always has power in an age-asymmetrical relationship? The reason that agency is pertinent is because Malala Yousafzai was also infantilized. Some conservative Pakistanis questioned whether her father wrote her speeches for her, as she bravely defied the Taliban at the age of 13. On the other hand, some liberal (left leaning) Pakistanis also critiqued her as a pawn or puppet in the hands of those who wanted to “use” her for their western narrative. Either way, agency was stripped from a teenager. It was as if she didn’t have a mind of her own to project a narrative that offended the sensibilities of those on both the left and the right of the political spectrum. Then there is the case of Shamima Begum, who was 15 when she left the U.K. to join ISIS, a group that has been categorically condemned by Muslims across the globe. She was not alone in joining ISIS, as hundreds of western Muslims and Muslim converts, born and brought up in the West voluntarily joined that group despite its atrocities. Many young men and women below the age of 25, the age by which the rational brain is supposed to fully develop, made their decisions out of free will and against the wishes of their parents and community elders. Generally, the history of genocide shows that many horrific crimes have been perpetrated by teenagers, be they in Rwanda or in Nazi Germany. Are all of them to be exculpated based on their age? This takes us back to Jinnah’s defence of Ilam Din when he was held accountable for murder and executed. Jinnah argued to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment based on his being 19 or 20 years of age. Jinnah was operating in a system that was rigged by a colonial power against the citizens of the Indian subcontinent. Though, he did not seek inculpability but commutation of the sentence. In other words, he upheld accountability but sought to temper the disproportionate punishment. This is consistent with Islamic ethics where accountability of the learned person is much greater than of the one who does not know. Traditionally, in Islamic discourse, children as young as 7 are nudged to pray and by 10 they are admonished for not praying. Accountability for good and bad deeds begins at 15. Should this be raised to 25? Similarly, Aisha is projected as a teenager or young adult when she married the Prophet, at least based on the narrative espoused by Javed Ahmad Ghamidi and other dissidents of the mainstream Muslim viewpoint that places her age at 9. Should she be considered a “child” to strip away her agency? Teenagers have sometimes exaggerated their age to join the army for heroism. Islamic lore has Muaz and Muawiz battle Abu Jahl in Badr, and both are projected as young boys. In contemporary times, youth make life decisions to convert to other faiths, as in the case of several white western converts to Islam. Often, such teenagers are projected favourably by Muslims, and they are not viewed as “children” without agency of their own. This brings us to the next question of whether power always lies with the older male in a sugar daddy-sugar baby “relationship”. Such arrangements, while consensual, can easily turn exploitative, where exploitation can come from either partner. If the older person exploits the younger person’s impressionability for sexual gratification, the younger person also exploits the older person’s loneliness for wealth. And this is as true for straight couples, as it is true in the case of gay sexual encounters. Indeed, Muslim history has examples of rent boys who were graphically described as those who “take from the basin to spend on the pitcher”, that is, those who sold their bodies to men for money to spend on the women they desired. To recapitulate, Islamic discourse is distinct from contemporary notions on accountability. Muslim values rest on Meezan (balance) where Aisha’s honour is protected by the Qur’an just as Joseph’s honour is protected by Allah against the advances of Potiphar’s wife (Zulekha). In essence, Islamic discourse views both men and women as equally vulnerable to libel. This warrants a balanced approach instead of the echo chambers that are created on social media. Thus, neither is the older person always in a position of power in age-asymmetrical transactions, nor is a youth inculpable like a child. Although, while teenagers remain accountable for their egregious actions, this accountability is greater for those who should know better. ------ Junaid Jahangir is an Assistant Professor of Economics at MacEwan University. He is the co-author of Islamic Law and Muslim Same-Sex Unions. With Dr. Hussein Abdullatif, a paediatric endocrinologist in Alabama, he has co-authored several academic papers on the issue of same-sex unions in Islam. He contributed this article to URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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