Culture, Family, Weddings

I’m terrified of marriage because of my religion and culture

After seeing what my cousins have gone through, I will never look at marriage the same way again.

Years ago when word came out that a girl in our community was having a mixed marriage, the reactions within our community were priceless.

As long as I can remember, mixed marriages weren’t common in our small brown community.

So when our family friend was getting married to a man with a completely different religious and cultural background, things got interesting, to say the least. I remember my parents talking about it; they were shocked, and I could tell they didn’t necessarily know how to react. After all, it was not their child, and in my opinion, they had no right to judge.

At the time, I was around 11 years old, and I didn’t really understand the depth of what was going on. All I knew was that one of my bajis (older sister figure) was getting married to a man who was neither Indian nor Muslim. 

He did convert to Islam, which made it okay, so we were excited for the couple.

Today, they’re happily married with children and have a cute little family. But after they set their example for all the younger ones in our community, I was left questioning mixed marriages as a whole and their effect on religious identity.

The thought of losing touch with my religion and straying away from it completely scares me. Islam a such a big part of my life – is it worth it to enter a mixed marriage if the result is losing my faith altogether?

I can’t speak for anyone, but from what I observed, my baji had left her religion behind. It pains me to see someone lose touch with their faith in that manner. And this really made me question the entire concept of mixed marriages. I’m not judging anyone, I think we’re all religious and intact with our religious identities in very different ways.  

I know for the fact that not all mixed marriages end this way. There are different ways of merging two cultures and adhering to your religion. And I think that’s the beauty of mixed marriages; the ability for a couple to come together to make things better for both of them.

My parents don’t help in my self-reflections on mixed marriages. They casually bring up marriage with me, and when they do, it’s like they’re inclined to add in “we know you’ll find a nice Pakistani man to marry” and “it’ll be so much easier to marry someone from your exact background to avoid problems.”

I have the most loving and accepting parents, and I know that when the time comes for me to get married, they will support me no matter what. But on the other hand, I fear even bringing up the topic of mixed marriages because I know this is something that they would be on the fence about.

Like really? No one in my family has done it so far, so why would they think that I will?

Although watching this couple scared me, it didn’t make me dislike mixed marriages. I think interfaith and intercultural marriages are beautiful. There’s something incredibly amazing about two people from completely different backgrounds coming together as one. 

Last year, a family member of mine did the unthinkable and married a white guy. No one really had time to take in the news because the wedding happened so quickly and no family was even able to attend. She was head over heels in love with this man who had basically promised her the world. Yeah, he converted for her.

And honestly, I thought it was the perfect love story. 

But then things started getting rocky after her marriage, and they split up. Now here was my beautiful young cousin, heartbroken with a now-tarnished reputation upon her family.

Again, this made me question everything. I was scared. Scared for my cousin, scared for what could happen to me in the future. Being exposed to these experiences and watching them unfold firsthand made me realize how much of an impact it had on me. I don’t want to be in the situation where I rebel against my parents for love, only to find out it would all fall apart in the end. 

Seeing my family member’s experiences terrifies me when it comes to the thought of marriage.

Personally, I’ve never really thought about what it would be like to be married to someone from a completely different background than me.

How will our families interact? How will he become accustomed to our traditions?

My friends always used to joke about marrying a “hot white guy with blue eyes”, having cute mixed babies or rebelling in the ultimate way to piss off our parents by marrying someone outside of their culture.

But I think that’s the wrong way to look at it.

Marriage in the Arab and Desi diaspora has its own complicated agenda. In order for an interfaith marriage to be acceptable in our cultures, the non-Muslim must convert – and not just for the sake of marriage. But for the sake of adopting and truly loving Islam as their own religion.

Intercultural marriages can be difficult sometimes; while the merging of two different cultures is magical, there are so many different traditions to understand and adhere to. When it comes to marriage, every little thing counts.

While your future spouse may be Muslim, the way they incorporate Islam into their daily lives may be extremely different. 

It’s always right or wrong with brown parents, especially when it comes to marriage.

But seriously, wake up people. We’re in the 21st century. Nowadays, we’re finally finding ways to adapt to society and be okay with things that weren’t necessarily okay 50 years ago.

Recently, we’ve had a few mixed marriages in our community. Both consisted of a Pakistani and a Middle Eastern couple. Though their religious duties were identical, their cultures were completely different. It was so interesting and downright cool attending these weddings to see how these two unique cultures came together as one.

Seeing successful mixed marriages makes me happy. I love that despite being a Desi or an Arab in this country, we’re finding ways to bridge the gap between our identities.

Who knows? Marry I’ll marry someone from a completely different background and things will fall into place the way it’s supposed to.

Until then, I’m chillin’.