The one good thing to come out of the Amir Khan and Faryal Makhdoom family feud

Unlike previous generations of Asian women, Makhdoom's two-year-old daughter won't keep quiet for the sake of the wider family at the cost of her own personal happiness

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The Independent Online

As the war of words and finger-pointing between Faryal Makhdoom and Amir Khan’s families escalate, could this outpouring of emotion actually be a good thing?  

The scenario being played out so publicly is all too common in many families, across cultures and backgrounds. As an Asian woman, it's certainly one I recognise. Marrying into a partner’s family usually means to some degree accepting and tolerating a new set of rules and ideas that can feel alien. 

Faryal’s interview on ITV’s This Morning, in which she described being teased by Khan’s family, felt strangely reminiscent of Princess Diana’s famous conversation on camera with Martin Bashir.

When an outspoken wife or daughter-in-law speaks out in this manner it ruffles the family feathers. But these women, perceived as thorns in the side of the in-laws, are catalysts for changing cultures and societies for the better. As Diana said in that interview: “She won’t go quietly, that’s the problem.”

Despite the rose-tinted image of how the Asian community lives – many generations living under one roof, eating together, looking after the elderly at home and babysitters provided on tap – the reality can often be different. Cultural programming dictates that it is the responsibility of the elderly son to provide financial, emotional and practical support to his even more elderly parents. Even if they don’t need his money, he has a sword of Damocles hanging over him. 

In keeping with his deference, even if there is genuine affection between husband and wife it is quite common for the son to plead with his wife to be patient and to tolerate his parents. He will promise her a future where things sort themselves out – but they rarely do. Or he might take the cowardly head-in-the-sand approach. This works for a while, until there is eventually an explosion of emotions.

The Khan clan is heading for a collision on values and lifestyle choices. Faryal’s description of Amir’s family as “Paindoo”, which translated means “backwards village mentality”, is harsh – but these are the words of an angry young woman who feels wronged and is striking out. 

So what could possibly be positive about all this? 

Faryal has a two-year-old girl who is watching her mother fight the system and finding her voice to speak out. And if her father supports her mother through this, she too will grow up to expect more from all men that come into her life. Unlike previous generations of Asian women, she won’t tolerate what she perceives as bullying, keeping quiet for the sake of the wider family at the cost of her own personal happiness. 

Faryal is inspiring future generations of daughters-in-law to be free and to be themselves. For the rest of us, as panic starts to take hold over turkey and sprouts, spare a thought for those whose only escape from their interfering in-laws is to broadcast live on television or social media.