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Rewarding Moral Decay

13-year-old Alfie PatternThe extent to which such actions harm all parties involved stems from the lack of family values, or to set the bar lower, even families to start off with. The industrialized world is facing a growing concentration, almost ghetto-like in form, of broken families and kids losing their childhoods and becoming adults as a result of these actions without any concrete understanding of the repercussions.13-year-old Alfie PatternThirteen-year-old Alfie looks more like eight, and he looks like he’s cuddling his baby sister rather than his daughter Masie. International headlines have blasted the story of Alfie Pattern and his 15-year-old girlfriend, who are now, frighteningly enough, parents. It comes as a relatively mundane news affair; after all, Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe and second only to the United States in comparison to the Western world. The case is a mere mirror of the moral decay that’s prevalent throughout these parts of the world.

Maisie Roxanne is statistically inclined to imitate her mother, subsequently becoming pregnant in her teens and repeating the depressing cycle of moral deprivation. As much as we are rooting for this child to succeed and defy the odds, the fate that most likely awaits her is much more likely to be of low achievement at school, followed by unemployment, criminal delinquency, and dependency on state benefits. The extent to which such actions harm all parties involved stems from the lack of family values, or to set the bar lower, even families to start off with. The industrialized world is facing a growing concentration, almost ghetto-like in form, of broken families and kids losing their childhoods and becoming adults as a result of these actions without any concrete understanding of the repercussions.

It would seem logical that historically, parents who are themselves children have never been a recipe for a successful life. Until the past few decades, having a child as an unmarried teenager spelled a clear disaster for girls. Both she and the child would lack the social and financial support that is present today in Britain and the United States. This is a plausible reason as to why there were so few teenage mothers between the 1700s and the second half of the 20th century. Teenage birth rates were low, despite the fact that the only effective contraception available was abstinence, and abortion was almost impossible.

Recent media reports have suggested that 13-year-old Alfie may not be the father, but does that make the issue any less alarming? Why does society swallow the fact the child’s mother became pregnant at the age of 14? We have become so used to teenage mothers that no alarms are being sounded about her age. It’s an almost systematic cycle that many teenage mothers cannot break free from. Broken homes create the next generation’s broke homes, and with the direction our society is heading in, this problem will only get worse.

Many of these teenage parents come from homes where they never see a father figure, and it affects them and their concept of what a relationship actually is. Given the many children by different parents they will have seen all around them (including their siblings), Alfie and Chantelle aren’t expected to break the mold. The high level of sexualization is often due to the fact that young girls perceive the only way of having a relationship with a boy is by offering sex, because this is all they have ever seen from their mothers. Often times, levels of abuse from men in their lives towards their mothers play a major role in their own relationships later on. They lack the understanding that compassionate care and love from a man can be possible for them without necessarily having to be bargained with over sex.

Yet how do we prevent such “families”, or the antagonists of the term? First and foremost, we must stop rewarding children for irresponsible behavior. Some will argue in favor of sex education, but studies have shown that such programs may actually encourage students to have sex. Instead of showering unwed teenage mothers with council flats, monthly allowances, and so on, we must aim to wean people off this destructive lifestyle. The current system provides incentives, where there must be disincentives. Rather than encouraging settled families, the welfare state rewards the dysfunctional. The best bet would be to taken on the example of several Scandinavian countries, primarily the Netherlands. It holds one of the lowest rates of teenage pregnancy rates in the world, where sex education and social policies comes with messages of abstinence and responsibility.

Sex education alone cannot save a society that continues to fall apart both socially and morally. Children are punished for speaking about God, and any form of religion is looked down upon in classrooms and schools, yet the social decay is allowed to continue. Parental control has been replaced by video games, educational responsibilities have been removed in favor of learning from television, and family values have been debased by latch-key living and casual arrangements. Unless change is implemented on a wide scale, the fear is that 13-year-old parents will no longer have tongues wagging.

About Huda Jawad

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  • mohammed.husain

    The story of Alfie is of course symptomatic of larger problems in our society, there is no doubt about that, and the author captures that well.

    I am skeptical however, that sex education or the lack thereof, or an encouragement to abstain can really do much in the face of a society that is so highly sexualized. I mean, even if we were to encourage abstinence in schools, the message of our all pervasive media has a message to the contrary and of course seems so much stronger. Then of course, without religious values, it’s hard to justify any sort of sexual morality at all.

    I mean, I think there is a parallel in the way alcohol is dealt with. It’s ok if you are 21 but not ok if you are younger. It’s arbitrary. Any sort of teaching of abstinence I think would be seen the same way. As just arbitrary. Teens would see it as just hypocrisy and ignore it, the same way they’d do with alcohol.

    That’s not to say, that encouraging abstinence in schools isn’t the better of two bad paths. But i’d think it’d take a lot more to see real changes in our society.

  • frequent reader

    This is sick! 🙁 But you know, there are people in our own community doing such things too. Maybe they do it in the name of mutah, but it is happening.

    Question: what is wrong, the sex or the pregnancy? Another question: If this was done under a mutah contract, should we accept that? My take is that just because something is halaal doesn’t make it a good idea to do.

  • masooma

    I’m curious, what exactly is the Netherlands doing? Are they just promoting birth control? Because all we hear about over here is that they have some of the most permissive policies anywhere about drugs and prostitution. And in comparing the UK and US, studies show that the US is a far more religious society than the UK and yet teen pregnancy rates are apparently higher. So there are some other factors at play.

    To the main point of the article though, in my thinking, the primary issue is not the age of the parents. It is the behavior out of wedlock, out of a structure of religious sanctity and without proper familial/societal/psychological preparedness and support for the phase of life they have brought themselves to prematurely. The behavior is immoral not because of the age primarily, but because it is fornication. If we look to the longer view of history, teenage pregnancy is the norm rather than the exception, but done in the context of marriage and appropriate societal and familial frameworks.

  • minimadmonkey

    interestingly, a story such as this should be a huge cause for alarm. but, I doubt any informed reader would be surprised considering the equivalently jarring garbage available on other media outlets.

  • frequent reader

    Minimadmonkey, how can this story not be a cause for alarm just because it’s being reported elsewhere? Even if something is happening often that does not mean we should become desensitized to how awful it is.

  • masooma

    Believe it or not the youngest mother of record was a 5 years 7 months old girl in Peru in 1939: http://snopes.com/pregnant/medina.asp

    The youngest father of record was a 12 year old British boy: http://www.thecgisite.com/detail/what-is-the-youngest-age-to-father-a-child-1060.html

  • Jenn

    I think its refreshing to find a Muslim in the west who is NOT an apologist towards teenage sex. Well done Huda, this article shows a small struggle between the conservative ideology among Muslims and those who have become far too embroiled in western culture to care anymore.

  • minimadmonkey

    Hopefully the above comment was not directed at me. I don’t think its right to become desensitized to such events. However, it is inevitable that it does happen.
    I link that to the fact that it does pain me when people die violently in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, Kenya, the Balkans, western China, and South Asia to name a few. But it does not pain me as much as the events initially did. I prefer to maintain an optimistic attitude and do whatever I can to inform and raise awareness of these events in the few means that I can.

    In any case, I am thankful for the Islamic Insights team for writing such thought provoking articles. Keep up the good work!