The Long and Winding Road of Yasmeen Ghauri

The Long and Winding Road of Yasmeen Ghauri

The uproar over Yasmeen Ghauri’s high profile has left her an outcast in her hometown community and has shifted accross the generations in her family and beyond — creating an irrevocable schism between her father and the mosque he led for 22 years.

Nothing is sure to please an elder more than word that a child of the community has gone on to fame and fortune. But in Montreal’s Muslim community, it the accompanying visuals that have created an uproar reverberating between generations.

Daughter of an imam, or religious leader, Yasmeen Ghauri’s foray into modeling was almost accidental. But her beauty quickly caught the eye of the fashion world, where her spectacular success puts her in the same league as supermodels Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell.

Images of her are a continuous presence in leading fashion magazines, and she commands as much as $10,000 a day when she graces the runways for Chanel, Armani, Valentino and Europe’s other leading haute couture houses.

But at home, her accomplishments are greeted with a mixture of fascination and fear, as parents and children of a religion whose practices are nurtured far away grapple with the strains imposed by their host culture.

According to the standards brought decades ago from the Muslim world, Ghauri, known professionally simply as Yasmeen, is considered to flout the importance Islam places on modesty.

Orthodox Muslims fear her prolific media presence will taint their children’s minds. But its difficult for those who grew up with Yasmeen not to hold her up as a super-role-model for everything they have been conditioned to achieve.

A recent immigrant from Pakistan calls them CBC’s — Canadian- Born and Confused. They are first generation Indo-Pakistani Canadians whose parents guage success in terms of the ability to secure financial wealth through education while being good Muslims at the same time. Many are finding it difficult to make it on both levels.

The uproar over Yasmeen’s high profile has left her an outcast in her hometown community and has shifted accross the generations in her family and beyond — creating an irrevocable schism between her father and the mosque he led for 22 years.

It is New Year’s Day 1993 and 20-year-old Concordia University student Arsalaan Patel is still nursing a hangover from last night’s over-exhuberance. His voice is hoarse and he continues to slur his words as he talks about the gulf between his Islamic upbringing and his Canadian soirees.

“I live a double life”, says Patel. “I do one set of things at home, but I do whatever I want when I’m at school. If I acted wild and crazy at home, or if my friends knew of some of the things I do, my parents would be socially ostracized. People would view me as a bad example for their children.”

He continues, still slurring his words, “Most of my friends are brown and Pakis. They are basically like me. We go through the religious motions just to keep our parents happy.”

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