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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Interfaith Marriages - Religious Double Standards Leave Many Muslims Single

URL - http://interfaithmarriages.blogspot.com/2013/07/interfaith-marriages-religious-double.html

Indeed, there are more single Muslim women in the United States than single men.

As a pluralist and an interfaith specialist who has conducted many interfaith marriages between people of different faiths, I continue to learn, understand and know the issues, and the more I learn, the more openings pop up, learning is an endless commitment.

The ultra-conservatives reject the interfaith marriages or insist on conversion of one party or the other, per them they have seen it all; there is no certainty in 'mixed' marriages and it is guaranteed to bring unforeseen miseries, that is their fear. Deep down they seem to want the marriages of their loved ones to fail - just so they can say, I told you so.

Their fears are legitimate, but what they miss out is factoring in the statistics. Far fewer interfaith marriages end up in divorce than the regular marriages, the reason is simple; their love for each other is stronger, as it was their choice to enter into the relationship,  and their commitment to make the marriage work remains stronger.

 As long as the society is homogenous and no one steps out of the known bounds, everyone is secure, and as long you do not interact with others (faith, culture, ethnicity, race), you are fine, and the system works like a charm with its own cultural and religious balance.
However, that is not the reality – no Muslim (Hindu, Jew or the other)  in America lives in a shell, he or she is constantly interacting with people of different cultures and faiths, races and ethnicities. He or she is bound to respect their friend, even if parents or religious teachers tell them that their friend will go to hell for not accepting Jesus as the savior; not following Islam or abandoning Hinduism. Indeed, the girl or the boy believes that his/her good friend will go to heaven,  and decides to accompany him or her.
A few men and women fake conversions, and the parents gloat on that victory, I have seen parents even fake it, telling their friends that their Bahu or Damaad (daughter or son in law) is a better Hindu, Muslim or Jew than their own kids. Sometimes, I wonder, what is important in life, being truthful or keeping up with the Jones'?

A couple of years ago, a Jewish mother disowned her daughter because she was marrying a Bahai, a Christian father had nothing to do with his son for choosing to marry a Hindu girl, its with every one, but not many are tested. 

For the black and white mind-sets, the world is full of colors. Accepting the interfaith couples does not mean you open the doors for the herds to go marry in other faiths, that is demeaning the love God magnetizes between any two people. 

Love happens, and I can never forget a couplet from Urdu and Hindi Languages, written by the Master Indian poet Mirza Ghalib:

Ishq par zor naheeN, hai ye woh aatish ‘GHalib’
ki lagaaye na lage aur bujhaaye na bane

Love is such a flame Ghalib (pen name),
you cannot lit or extinguish it, it just happens.

Marriage is between two individuals who are willing to commit to each other’s well-being. 
Like all couples, the interfaith couple also endures similar strains in their relationship, (8.4 and 7.9 marital satisfaction on Riley Scale) but it may take the avatar of faith if they are at each other’s throat. It is always easy to blame the religion for our failings. However, interfaith and other inter-relationships tend to be stronger.
Interfaith couples must be admired by one and all. When many a couples are having difficulty in getting along, they are setting a new standard: respecting the otherness of someone else and accepting the God-given uniqueness of each other. They may have grown up in different religious traditions, but yet, religion is not a barrier. The poet philosopher of the East, Dr. Allama Iqbal, says, Religion does not teach one to have ill-will.

No one in the American Cities goes without interacting with others. Even the Rabbis, Bhikkus, Gyanijis, Pandits and Imams  at times are accused of shaking hands with a woman in interfaith meetings. 

WARNING to the parents:  the more you denigrate your kid's friends faith, the more your kids will distance from your faith and culture. If you express any prejudice towards Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jews or others, your kids are likely to reject your attitude. However, some will get entrenched in the conservative ideals, and find it difficult to live with the society at large, what a shame!

The question to ponder is this: Do we like Christian, Jewish or Hindu bigots? If we don't, then let our kids be not seen as bigots to the Christian, Jewish, Hindu and other groups. We are all guilty of bigotry.

What did the prophet say? Think for your brother what you think for yourselves, he did not say "Muslim" brothers, nor would he have said that, as he was the Rahmatul Aalameen (mercy to mankind). We have a choice to constrict him to Muslimeen or accept and give due value for being Rahmatul Aalameen and live up to the ideals of Aalameen (universality).  

40% of Muslims (near similar percentage holds good for Jewish, Christian, Hindu and others) marry outside their faith and this will continue to increase, the solution is not distancing from them, but being open to them. Whether you like it or not, it is their life and they are going to marry the ones they are in love with.  I have known many parents who boast raising their child with perfect values (obedient) and that he or she will marry the spouse of their choice and it does happen and works well as well, but they are subject to the same rules as others. 
The bigger part of Muslim singles are women over 40 – nearly half of Muslim single women are over 40 and they rightfully don’t want to marry another guy without knowing him – but how? Every man she talks with feels he is entitled to her,  shame on men and their culture for their stinky attitude. No one is entitled, they have to earn the relationship. The Muslims women I have talked to resent men's attitudes,  and hate talking to another Muslim (same with Hindus) Man for a relationship.
I looked up several matrimonial ads, and an overwhelming majority of women (over 50) have checked no religious preference in the box provided, and even go on to say that they are not religious. Many have marked spirituality instead of Islam or Hinduism. Mind you they are not advertising in Hindu or Muslim exclusive matrimonials, they are reaching the generic meeting singles places.  Many women have remained single for a very long time. Why should they?

We may not like our women folk to marry outside, but it is a crime to cause them to remain single because of our societal pulls. It is the God given right of woman to live a happy life with a man of her choice, and she needs to have that choice. We need not be a pain to them, if they bring in a friend from other races or faiths to a gathering, we should treat it as a normal social relationship, and not spend imaging things up. We should be accepting them, we should be happy for them to have made that effort.

For those who are ready to stick the religion in your face, believe me, the lady has tried all avenues and finally had made that choice. As a reminder, individuals are responsible for their actions on the Day of Judgment and not anyone else. She is the one who has to live with the right man and she must explore all the options.

God is merciful, that is your God, my God and every one's God, and he loves those of us who care for his creation. Per the Islamic tradition, stories abound where a sinner would feed a hungry dog, or quench a thirsty cat and God graces him or her with his bounty, and forgives their sins for that act of kindness. Marrying outside is not a sin, it would be a sin to live in hopes of a life together, but not finding one.

What are your other choices?
Mike Ghouse is an interfaith marriage minister and a speaker on Islam, pluralism, interfaith, multicultural and future societies.  www.MikeGhouse.net

Religious Double Standards Leave Many Muslims Single
By Naomi Schaefer Riley
WeNews guest author
Sunday, June 30, 2013
Sex segregation can also make it hard for Muslim youth to get to know each other, leading to higher interfaith marriages, says a marriage counselor in this excerpt from Naomi Schaefer Riley's "'Til Faith Do Us Part."
(WOMENSENEWS)-- Munira Ezzeldine, a marriage counselor in Irvine, Calif., who is one of the instructors of a premarital course, tells me that Islam in America is at a "kind of crossroads now."
She explains, "We don't have something called dating in the Western context, you know with pre-marital sex and all the stuff that comes with it." But young Muslims are also not interested in having arranged marriages as their parents and grandparents did. "They actually want to get to know the person for a certain amount of time, but also within the boundaries."
Description: http://www.powells.com/bookcovers/9780199873746.jpgIf a young Muslim is aiming for this kind of compromise, there are other resources too. Ezzeldine, who wrote a short book called "Before the Wedding: Questions for Muslims to Ask Before Getting Married," tries to offer her coreligionists a way of getting to know each other without violating the standards of the faith. Ezzeldine wants Muslims to have "the conversations to get to know somebody for marriage in a way" that is more than superficial. Right now they often just say, "Oh I think we get along," but they don't know "what you need to know about a person" before you marry him or her. She also notes that families in the Muslim community have wildly different expectations of religious life and marriage so it is important for everyone to be on the same page.
Interestingly, the lack of communication between Muslim men and women before marriage noted by many Muslim leaders is actually part of a larger problem that Ezzeldine believes is resulting in more interfaith matches. Ezzeldine suggests that the Muslim community's standards for interacting with members of the opposite sex are actually having a deleterious effect on marriage in the community. It is often easier for a Muslim to meet a non-Muslim of the opposite sex--in school for instance--than for a Muslim to meet another Muslim in a religiously sanctioned setting because Muslim prayer and religious education are all segregated by sex.
'Wakeup Call'
Ezzeldine says that the high interfaith marriage rates should be a "wakeup call" for the community. She thinks Muslims are "making it so hard for our young people to get to know each other at the mosque or any youth groups or Muslim Student Associations, and then you end up tying their hands and then they end up getting to know [a non-Muslim] really well and befriend somebody in a class or at work. Then of course they are going to make a connection and get married."
Even though such marriages are religiously sanctioned when they involve a Muslim man and a Jewish or Christian woman, Ezzeldine still thinks these interfaith marriages are creating problems for the community. She believes that the theological justification for allowing men to marry non-Muslim women has been rendered moot by the sociological realities of life in America. "The way it is presented is that the Muslim man is the one who is supposed to keep the faith in that family . . . He's responsible for the children to get educated within the faith . . . ." Ezzeldine says that's not what she witnesses in her community and others she has visited. "The reality is, the woman is the one who is teaching the children, and you know, influencing that family and the faith that they follow."
In addition to the fact that the children of such marriages are not being raised in the Muslim faith, there are other difficulties that have been generated by the double religious standards for men and women. The number of men marrying out has actually created a severe gender imbalance, leaving many Muslim women without partners. In other words, the religiously sanctioned intermarriages are forcing more religiously forbidden intermarriages.
In a 2011 article in the Guardian, Syma Mohammed reported on the imbalance at the Muslim matchmaking events she attends in England, where there are sometimes as many as five women for every man. She writes, "Nearly all Muslim singles events are female-dominated, unless organizers artificially construct a level playing field by selling equal numbers of male and female tickets."
Lack of Equal Partners
Shortly after Mohammed's piece appeared, the American Muslim physician Qanta Ahmed made similar observations in a USA Today op-ed: "Muslim women living in non-Muslim majority nations frequently lack intellectually and professionally equal Muslim partners. Instead we are eschewed by our male Muslim counterparts for younger, less career-advanced Muslim women, often from countries of parental heritage. These forces drive Muslim women to either select suitable marriage partners from outside the faith or face unremitting spinsterhood."
There are two potential solutions to this crisis: The first is to allow Muslim women to marry out as well, something that Ahmed advocates in the name of gender equality. She says women should be able to make their own decisions in this regard, that they should be guided by the principles of ijtihad, which allows Muslims to interpret religious texts according to their own judgments. This view has been presented most forcefully by Imam Khaleel Mohammed, a professor of religion at San Diego State University. He says that the only reason that the Quran does not allow Muslim women to marry non-Muslim men is the concern that a man's religion would always become the dominant one. But in 21st-century America, with our sense of sexual equality, this should not be a problem.
Even religious leaders who are sympathetic to this argument and are willing to support a less literal interpretation of the Quran may not find themselves in agreement with Imam Mohammed or Ahmed. Rather, they may see the strong religious influence that mothers have over their children in America as a reason to prohibit interfaith marriage across the board. If women here are so "equal" that the child of an interfaith marriage is more than twice as likely to adopt his mother's faith as his father's, then why should religious authorities trust that a Muslim man married to a Christian woman will end up with Muslim children?
Reprinted from "'Til Faith Do US Part" by Naomi Schaefer Riley with permission from Oxford University Press USA. Copyright © 2013 by Naomi Schaefer Riley.
Naomi Schaefer Riley is a former Wall Street Journal editor and writer whose work focuses on higher education, religion, philanthropy and culture. She is the author of "God on the Quad" and "The Faculty Lounges."
For More Information:
Buy the Book, "Til Faith Do Us Part: How Interfaith Marriage Is Transforming America":