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June 17, 2012, Sunday

Fathers and daughters

When my father was a young man he saw a saint in his dream one night. The saint said to him, “You’ll be very rich when you turn 40.” Subsequently, I was born when my dad was 40 years old.

Thus, he always compliments me, saying I brought him prosperity. “I am the wealthiest man since I have the most precious daughter,” he always says. His positive feedback has always been a privilege for me.

The relationship between a father and his children is a crucial part of the family structure. A father’s capabilities and importance as nurturer have been mostly ignored and fathers have long been seen only as providers and disciplinarians. However, over time, it’s been scientifically proven that fathers have a significant impact on their children. Nowadays, many fathers are taking active, constructive roles in their children’s lives and they are doing a wonderful job.

Furthermore, in parent-child relationships, fathers and daughters have a unique bond. The father has to be a very good example of manhood. The role of a father in his daughter’s life is fundamental: He is the first man in her life. When she learns what he -- as a male -- thinks of her, this knowledge shapes her sense of self-worth in the eyes of other men. The way a young daughter observes her father behave will make a big difference in how she will see men later in life. The effect a father can have on a daughter’s self-esteem, choice of men and her comfort with her sexuality is unquestionable.

In March, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. After their meeting Mr. Obama publicly said that since both leaders have daughters they talked about their common experiences in parenting. He also indicated that since Mr. Erdoğan has older daughters, he took some advice from him.

After Mr. Obama made this statement, The Washington Times columnist Marybeth Hicks criticized him, saying, “When it comes to girls, no religion is more hampering of the rights of females or more restrictive of their basic liberties then [sic] is Islam.” She suggested visiting “any one of the 34 million sites that appears in a Google search for ‘raising Islamic daughters’” and also claims that “most Muslim daughters are forced to accept their status as second-class citizens.”

What an unfair mischaracterization the role of women in Turkey and Islam. Such a big gaffe. I recommend that Ms. Hicks do more serious research about Islam and Turkey. As a journalist she should have better references than Google. If you really want to understand Islam, start by reading “Opening the Qur’an” by Professor Walter H. Wagner. If you want to learn about Turkey, go there. You won’t regret it. It’s a wonderful country. Can anybody say that unsolved women’s issues in Turkey are solved in the US, such as domestic violence, birth control, abortion? It’s not fair to declare Muslim women as second-class citizens when all American women are dealing with “equal pay” in the US.

Still, I did do some research on daughters in Islam. Ahmet Kurucan, a very well-respected theologian, who has a daughter, told me that as a Muslim father he takes the Prophet Muhammad as a role model. He stated: “With the Prophet’s guidance, my suggestion to fathers is try to be a friend of your children while keeping a well balanced distance to protect respect between you and your children. Use your empathy to understand them, balance punishment and a reward system, spend quality time with your children and be a good role model for them. Practice what you preach.” Is he saying anything different from modern psychology nowadays?

I also talked to Dr. Nuray Tuğrul-Yurt, the director of the Interfaith Dialog Center, Central New Jersey. Ms. Tuğrul-Yurt pointed out that “after the arrival of Islam, women were acknowledged as equals with men in the Quran. They were given the right to decide on their marriage, education, family and children. They gained the right to own property, wealth and gained the right to be part of society. In Islam, women are equal to men in bearing personal and common responsibilities, receiving rewards for her deeds, the pursuit of education and knowledge. When Islam prescribes the seeking of knowledge to Muslims, it makes no distinction between a man and a woman. Aisha, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad, was one of the first teachers of Islam to male and female scholars.” Moreover, referring to Dr. Kurucan, Tuğrul-Yurt added that “women were given the greatest freedoms and rights with the arrival of Islam but Muslim women could not protect their freedom and rights in their national cultural values. We are mixing religion and cultural social pressure.”

The father-daughter complex relationship is a phenomenon we will always talk about. I don’t think it’s an intelligent idea to use it to blame a religion as Ms. Hicks did. Women have always had to fight for their rights no matter what their religion. Women’s fight for their rights will never end.

In conclusion, there are many awful fathers, but there are awesome ones, too. Being a father is a tough mission and there is no retirement from it. Any man may have a child, but not every man can be a father. Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers! Enjoy your day.

Previous articles of the columnist