Q: I started dating a guy in college who has an Islamic background. At first, I was hesitant to go out with him, because my girlfriends kept telling me that Muslim men suppress women and how he wouldn’t respect my independence. Nothing could be further from the truth — even his sisters are going to school, one to be a doctor and another an accountant. My main problem, is my parents. They don’t approve of him, and what’s more, every time he comes around, they keep trying to convert him to Christianity, even going so far as to give him pamphlets and ask him to come to church with them. How do I make my parents respect my boyfriend’s religion, without starting a holy war?
A: Well, seeing as you have introduced him to your family, it appears as if things are getting pretty serious. If this is the case, you may have to sit down with your parents and let them know that, while you respect their religious choices, you want them to also respect your partners, even if they do not agree with it.
That said, please realize that the Islamic/Muslim lifestyle and religion is very different from a Westernized, Christian one. Before taking any major relationship steps, find out what would be expected of you as a Muslim wife if things grow serious. For example, would you be expected to give up your career and have children soon after marriage? Would you have to convert in order to be accepted by the family?
Family is a very big part of the picture when it comes to marriage and choosing a life mate, especially in Islamic cultures. Unlike the American paradigm, Middle Eastern cultures see the couple as an extension of the family line, and thereby, they have to give grave consideration to who they allow to carry on the family name, to the point of arranging their children’s marriages.
Whatever you may personally feel about such an arrangement, you, like your parents, would have to respect that. If you think that would be difficult to do, you need to re-evaluate the importance of your relationship with this young man before coming to your parents with your request to back off.
If you feel as if you can acclimate to a different culture’s perspectives, and you think you have grown to love this person, then go for it, and let nothing stop you. Love is hard to come by, and if it is genuine, then it is worth fighting for, just go forward with your eyes open, knowing what you are signing up for before you join.
If however, you are merely just dating casually, then the point is moot. Enjoy your time together, and don’t invite said beau over to your folks house. Stick with outings with mutual friends and gravitate towards places that keep things on a amiable and fun level.
This way, you avoid controversy and can enjoy fun times in the company of a wonderful, charming friend.