By Samra Amir

August 2006

“Will you marry me...?”
“Oh Allah I ask of you peace & faith…”
“So dudes, this is like totally wrong…”

All of the above are very different examples of one thing; human rights. These rights are something that we wouldn’t normally notice on an average day living in Canada. However, spend a day in a country in the Middle East or Africa, and you’ll notice the difference before you can say “I want out.” If I were to talk about all the privileges that are presented in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, this article would go on forever, and most likely cause you to lose interest, or even something else – consciousness. But luckily (mostly for you - the reader), I’ve decided to stick to the articles of the Declaration that are most important to me (although I had to narrow even that list down):
Article 16:

(1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.
(2) Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses.

Article 18:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 19:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Personally, I believe that marriage is the most important part of life. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve grown up with marriages (my cousins, family friends, etc.), or perhaps it’s the infatuation that I have with making my life as picture perfect as I can: caring husband, loving children, and me of course, with freshly baked cookies from the oven. *Sigh*…what a dream! I’m quite sure that I’m not alone with my imaginings; there must be other people out there like me. However, to fulfill those desires, we must have a chance to choose our partners; a choice that isn’t hindered by racial or national boundaries. Now I know what you are thinking: what about religious boundaries? Well that all depends on what religion you’re from. For example, I am a Muslim girl, so by my religions rulings, I am required to marry a man that is also a Muslim. Personally, I have no problem with that; it all just means that we’ll have more in common. I’m not trying to discourage anyone, but merely stating my opinion. However, getting back to the main point; marriage should be something that is accomplished with someone who you believe can complete you for the rest of your life. Now if that means marrying someone out of your race or your country, by all means you go girl! Oh…err…and guy!

Another thing that I feel very strongly about is having the consent of both people before getting them married. I believe that forcing someone into marriage, is like forcing them into a fire. In some cases of arranged marriage, one of the partners is subjected to harsh treatment that varies from ignorance of needs, to physical abuse. I am a firm supporter of people who decline marriages that they feel will not be for the best for both of them. If not the person that is to be married, then who else would know? True, parents also know what is good for you and what is not (seeing as they haven’t failed you in the past; “Don’t eat too fast or you might choke…like that”). However, unfortunately, some parents in countries like India get their daughters married to horrible men, for their own benefit. Let me tell you, whenever I hear a story about how a woman was abused or even killed, by her own husband (which isn’t too uncommon in South Asia), I can feel my blood boiling to the surface. Nothing angers me more than the disrespecting of women. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be sexist, but seeing as I myself am a girl, you can’t blame me for being just a tad bit biased!

Yes yes, I’m sorry the first topic ran so long, but I can’t help it, I’m a natural chatterbox, be it on paper or through air! Right, so moving on to my next favourite right; the freedom of religion. I myself, being a practicing Muslim cannot be more grateful that this privilege is present in Canada. I wear a hijaab (a head scarf) when I go out, I wear my customary covering dress (jilwaab), and I make regular trips to the Mosque. These actions may seem as normal as walking down the street, to someone who is accustomed to Canada’s ways. However, in countries in the Middle East, and Asia - and now even France – if you were to walk down the street with a hijaab or a cross, I’m sure that you would be stopped numerous times by the authorities, and in some cases, arrested! I personally think that it’s absolutely ridiculous to try to stop people from practicing their religion. Whatever happened to respect and brotherhood? Personally, if I were to create my own country (it would so be called Samra Land!), I would make laws that allowed everyone to practice their own religion, and those who would try to stop them, would be punished severely. What my policy would be is; those who want to practice; do so, and those who want to preach; do so to those who want to be preached to, don’t force it upon someone who has already declined.

Finally, we’ve reached my last (but definitely not least) favourite right; the freedom of opinion. I don’t know if you’ve noticed yet, but almost everyone has been blessed with a voice to speak with. For those who haven’t been, are bestowed with the miracles of paper and pen, or technology to use their “voice”. Everyone should be allowed to speak their mind about anything they want. Of course there should be boundaries about when and where, but they are free to speak about the topics nonetheless. Unfortunately, some people abuse this right. For example, they back everything up by saying, “It’s a free country!” Those people are usually rude, obnoxious, and say whatever pops into their minds first, without caring about the impact that it may make. Many people shout insults and rude remarks to authoritative figures, when there is a reasonable approach to get their point across. It disappoints me deeply to see people in countries that support this right, abuse it, when they should be thankful for it, and exercise it in the proper manner. They are taking advantage of something that has been handed as a gift to them, without being mindful of those who do not possess this privilege. As a personal opinion, I believe that this is one of the most important rights of all, as well as one of my favourites. If someone were to abuse it in Samra Land, I’d see to it that they would be suspended from using it. Just to give them a taste of what they aren’t being gratified for.

I know what you’re doing; sighing a sigh of relief – the articles almost over. But before you leave to check out some of the other articles, let me just put a thought into your head, call it food for thought if you must:

When I wake up in the morning, I’m sure to say “thank you” for the bed I slept on and the security I had. When I get dressed, I say “thanks” for the clothes on my back and the shoes on my feet. When I wear my hijaab I say “thank you”, for allowing me to. When I leave for school, I say “thank you”, for providing me my future. When I go to the Mosque, I say “thanks” for letting me pray. When I pass the Canadian flag, I say, “Thanks…for everything.”

That is what a friend of mine told me two months after moving here from France. Although this was a long time ago, and I’ve lost touch with her, this remains implanted in my head. I will never forget about the gifts that I have been granted; the things that let me sleep peacefully at night, the things that let me do what I want, the things that let me be who I am! I’ve never forgotten to say thanks since then, hopefully you won’t either.

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