There were recently two events in London that seemed to address interestingly interlinked themes. One was a marriage seminar by the Family Affairs Committee (who?) and the other being the Challenges of parenting in modern Britain by the Muslim Forum (who?) held within a day of each other. As someone who is recently married and looking to start a family in the near future, both events seemed to be particularly relevant to me. So I mulled it over and then took the first plane out of the country.
From what I subsequently heard, the lectures and events on the whole were well received and community engagement on serious issues is always to be applauded. However one sometimes needs to question the approach taken to tackle complex and sensitive issues that are presumably causing a degree of concern without serious study of their underlying causes.
We’re all familiar with the gloomy/hysterical dinnertime conversations that paint the picture of the rise in divorces, difficulty in finding the right partner and the lack of eligible men/women and we are also aware of some of the supposed reasons for this. The social network that had existed in Iraq and solved all marital issues could not be reforged in the small diaspora pockets in Europe and North America. Added to this was the simple fact that the wider society here existed at a different equilibrium in terms of rights vs. duty and the individual vs. community that had a subconscious effect on the newer generations. Enforcing the class divide, ethnicity, sayid factor and other Iraqi snobbery was that much harder in the vast multicultural melting pot of cities like London. The reality of life here also meant that both partners would need to work to keep up with bills that created its own tension. Add in the ever-present communal identity crisis and you have a large and varied set of half-baked pseudo-social scientific hypotheses.
Key stage three science teaches us that hypotheses need to be tested in order to ascertain their veracity. While social science is an oxymoron in itself, there are tools that can aid us in clarifying the myriad of social forces at play here. Qualitative as well as quantitative research that include structured interviewing, focus groups and surveys may begin to fill in the picture currently taken up by assumptions, subjective assertions and plain guesswork. The resources are there but they just need to be used more smartly.
In the meantime the younger generation seem to have found alternative vehicles for matrimonial match-ups. The growth of social networking from the basic MSN messenger to the more sophisticated facebook and others has allowed for flexible interaction beneath the radar of the older generation. However what has been even more successful is the phenomenon of the Ahlulbayt/Iraq student societies at universities across the country. They have been by far the most efficient matchmaking machines and the only thing left is for them to drop the pretext of holding events altogether.
Organisations such as the Family Affairs Committee have valiantly stepped in to try to address the social issues that affect our community. However until we take the issue seriously and begin to rationally analyse the underlying causes and subsequently design social interventions based on the lessons learnt, we will forever have to sit through those ‘social meltdown’ conversations and secretly enjoy the latest gossip about marriage, divorce and ugly babies.