My name is Simran Kahani. I have worked with mixed couples of Muslim/Christian background as well as other Faiths namely Hindu and Sikh. My experience has come from a variety of organisations with whom I have worked, and also my own online website ‘Simrans Link’. I have built up a community of people who regularly contact me for help and support with their mixed relationship,and Faith is often one aspect of the work needed, However…. my experience has shown me that race,community opposition,and family traditions and expectations for marriage,are often the difficulties that couples initially face For example…… Often the issue of Faith is very important to the Muslim partner,as they ask for support to think through the things that are at play in terms of their Faith identity,cultural identity as well as how they will cope with the potential isolation of the situation.
I have written a book about my experiences on a number of levels…including of a mixed relationship….. with the backdrop of the family and community that I came from, and why I made the decision that I did to be in a mixed relationship. It’s about me meeting someone from white British background, trying to engage with my family in supporting me with the marriage and of my family ultimately disowning me,not on this account alone but also for seeking independent choices for my life, I speak about my experiences in the aftermath of this marriage,,that I have come to empathise and work with mixed couples as well as those who are disowned by their families. I thank God, that I have gone on to have a successful marriage spanning over 27 years, and 2 grown up children of dual heritage and a strong faith family.
I have put this up on Simran’s Link to support couples I know who have struggled, come through,or are thinking about these issues. Please contact us if you would like to discuss and debate this topic.
Naseem and Paul have been together for 18 months,meeting at University. Naseem is 21 and Paul 25 years old .Paul is now working and has a good job. They are a mature couple, initially agonising on how they would inform Naseems parents of their relationship,as Naseem was aware that her parents would not be happy with marrying a non Muslim,someone from white British background and a Catholic Christian . The tradition in Naseems family is that of arranged marriage.
They have reached a point where they no longer want to hide,as Naseem feels guilty that she is doing this, and making excuses to her family about where she is when she is not at University. Naseem and Paul would like to be able to see each other without these pressures as their time together is limited,and they have become fearful that the relationship might be known to Naseems community without her parents having heard about it from her,as it is difficult not to be seen together. Naseem and Paul have not consumated their relationship because marriage is important to Naseem in particular. She is fearful that her parents will speed up the plans for her to marry a cousin,whom she does not want to marry,however the consequences of saying no to her cousin may have implications for her safety,as she knows that her parents will see no way out of this,and may indeed force her to go to Pakistan to marry her cousin. She has heard from other people in her community about people who have had to hide or have been disowned because parents did not want to consider a relationship of choice and compatibility for the individuals concerned. She knows that there have been murders of girls from the news,because they were found to be seeing a boy.
Naseem and Paul need support through this,they have asked where they can find an understanding Imam who can marry them,as Paul does not want to convert to become Muslim, as many aspects of his Faith remain important to him. Paul is willing to learn about Islam and they have talked about how they will raise their children,but need time and good support around these evolving areas for them. Naseem is not opposed to Paul retaining his Faith as a Christian,but is more worried about what the family will think of her supporting Paul with his choice not to convert.
Naseem is trying to cope with the pressure but finding it very difficult, she is feeling isolated and Paul is worried about her but about their safety as a couple,as he has become aware of people starring at him when he is with Naseem, passing unfriendly remarks. They can’t see that they are doing anything wrong, they see a future together but need Naseems parents and community to see this too.
Naseem and Paul eventually married at the local registration office as they could not find an Imam who was prepared to marry them, as the local Imam asked if parents were in agreement,however due to fear they had not asked Naseems parents . My role was to make sure that Naseem and Paul had all the information available to them,including support online,the potential for them to meet other couples directly in the same situation to offer support, but other people who know Imams who might support them with this situation,such as the ‘Interfaith’ who have often helped me with people who have needed support an advice around Faith and relationships.
Naseem and Paul have married within the legal system of this country,but things remain unresloved for them in Faith marriage particularly for Naseem. She would still like this to happen,and they both need guidance and support to get to this point. ideally they would like:
1. To be accepted for their relationship so that they can live peacefully within their family and community.
2. To be supported with their choices by the local Imam.
3. To practice Islam and Christianity,and at the minimum be accepted for this.
4. To go on to learn and be supported with ongoing decisions from raising children in faith,to the rites of passage and how these are managed,to celebrations etc…they understand they will need to compromise on some things for both sets of parents and their traditions, values,and Faiths.
What should Naseem and Paul do now?
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