Posted by: Winslie Gomez | 29/02/2008

Immigrant Tradition Vs Modern Life in UK

Meet at crisis points. Or at least come to the view of the wider public, because most of the time these lives go unnoticed, because they don’t rile anyone and go about their sad lives, in complete anonymity until a flash point occurs.

As in the life of Caneze Riaz, a 39 year old born in UK.


Img courtesy of and thanks to

She a well liked community worker and he a traditionalist from the North West Frontier of Pakistan, the back of beyond some would say.

Marriages across cultural divides need more work than the average marriage and when you consider that the average marriage has trouble surviving, how mush more effort is required across the cultural and religious divide.

This sad story begins with Caneze’s own father, a Pakistani, who came to Britain in the 60’s and married an English girl but when his daughter finishes primary school sends Caneze back to Pakistan. Fifteen long years later she comes back, but now with a husband, who has no grasp of the English language. On the other hand his wife has returned to the land of her birth and feels comfortable with everything British i.e. life, food, culture, language, humour etc.

This is how Ian Herbert of the Independent reported it last year (Published: 21 February 2007).

Muslim husband who killed his wife and children because of their Western ways

Mohammed Riaz made every conceivable attempt to prevent his wife and daughters enjoying their Westernised lifestyle. He destroyed their clothes – modest by Western standards but tight fitting by his own – when they came out of the wash and he railed against plans to allow alcohol at his terminally ill son’s 18th birthday party – which had been brought forward because of his prognosis.

Increasingly alienated and in despair over the illness of his son, Adam, the labourer killed his wife and four daughters by throwing petrol over them as they slept and igniting it.

At the inquest in Blackburn, Lancashire, yesterday the coroner, Mike Singleton, recorded a verdict that Caneze Riaz, 39, and her four daughters, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 15, Alicia, 10, and Hannah, three, were unlawfully killed at their terrace home in Accrington, and that Mr Riaz, who died in hospital two days after the fire, took his own life. Adam died six weeks later.

Police investigations revealed how estranged Mr Riaz, a traditionalist and a practising Muslim who grew up in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, had become from his vivacious wife, a high-profile community worker who had co-founded the local Aawaz women’s group, mentored teenage girls at a high school in nearby Rishton, and was a school governor and board member on several diversity groups.

Mrs Riaz, whose father married an English woman after becoming one of the first Asian men to emigrate to the area in the 1960s, was sent back to Pakistan for 15 years after completing primary school, but she returned in the early 1990s with Mr Riaz, with whom she had an arranged marriage. The children flourished in Britain. The eldest daughter, Sayrah, was a “second mother” to her sisters, according to the family, and had a passion for fashion design; Sophia, 13, loved rap music and wanted to be an MC, while Alicia was the closest to her father. She embraced Asian culture the most and was a regular at the mosque.

While their mother thrived, their father struggled to find employment, eventually working for a plastic bag manufacturer in Blackburn. Their relationship had deteriorated rapidly after the death of Mrs Riaz’s father, in 2003, and her husband had taken to sleeping downstairs. The pressures on their relationship were made worse when Adam, who had moved in with his uncle, was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer. Doctors said he would live only six months.

“[It meant] the financial situation was bad,” said Det Supt Mick Gradwell, of Lancashire Police. “A lot of money was being spent on presents for Adam as he was coming to the end of his life. They were spending a lot more than they earned – at Caneze’s will, not Mohammed’s.”

The pressures drove Mr Riaz to drink heavily. Sclerosis of the liver was found after his death. On their last afternoon, Mr Riaz saw his wife being dropped off after enjoying a meal with friends in Manchester, but police say there was no suggestion she was involved in a relationship with anyone else.

Early on 1 November last year, Mr Riaz decided the pressures were too much. As his wife and daughters slept in three upstairs bedrooms, he threw petrol over them and trailed more around the house, then lit three fires.

Police believe his wife awoke and may have tried to throw one of the two petrol cans he used away from her bed. But she died almost immediately. Mr Riaz stood downstairs and waited for the flames to come down and engulf him. When they didn’t, he ran back upstairs through a wall of fire and was found by firefighters in the bathroom. He died of 65 per cent burns and smoke inhalation.

Barry Khanan, 38, Mrs Riaz’s brother, said her alienation from Mr Riaz was a result of “the different ways in which they approached their lives”. He said: “She had become frustrated with his lack of emotional support and involvement throughout Adam’s illness. Caneze was outgoing and wanted to better herself. Her husband was more withdrawn. Words cannot express how we feel about the man we believe killed our family.”

Father killed family for being too western

By Nigel Bunyan

Mohammed Riaz

A father killed his wife and four daughters in their sleep because he could not bear them adopting a more westernised lifestyle, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mohammed Riaz, 49, found it abhorrent that his eldest daughter wanted to be a fashion designer, and that she and her sisters were likely to reject the Muslim tradition of arranged marriages.

On Hallowe’en last year he sprayed petrol throughout their terraced home in Accrington, Lancs, and set it alight.

Caneze Riaz, 39, woke and tried to protect her three-year-old child, Hannah, who was sleeping with her, but was overcome by fumes. Her other daughters, Sayrah, 16, Sophia, 13, and Alisha, 10, died elsewhere in the house.

Riaz, who had spent the evening drinking, set himself on fire and died two days later.

“She started to develop her own circle of friends and allowed the girls to express themselves in a more western way.”

She began to work with women who felt suppressed by Asian culture and many saw her as a role model for young Asian women.

How and where do we begin to change the mind set of a people, who are continually looking back at their old home-land with rose tinted spectacles, only to bring misery to the next generation.

These sad and soul destroying events are not exclusive to the Muslim community, but a reflection of life for, if not all; probably a high number of the immigrant population living in the modern, westernised societies.

Good site that offers advice.

Here is a support centre for Asian Women seeking help.

There are even blogs on the subject.

Muslimdilema has a tale to tell and a warning to heed.

Another similar story, but from a Hindu perspective.


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