Monday, July 9, 2012

prejudice: muslim and dating

I was sick again today, but got a little better after taking some interesting advice. If you've been suffering from unexplained stomach pain, curb the citrus (and melon!) and drink red wine. No joke. Whatever it is that works in red wine is doing wonders for me. You all are unbelievably wonderful for leaving me such sweet comments; I felt like I was getting a big collective hug or something. :) How could I have been away from the blogosphere for so long?!

Illness and such aside, I had an unsettling experience today that brought up a whole lot of unpleasant memories. This is about to be a Serious Post, without pictures or outfits because I am frankly pretty upset and I don't know how I would illustrate that in pictures. I'm putting it beneath a cut because it's not the sort of thing I usually talk about, and I don't want to sully up everyone's summers with my complaints.

I've mentioned it a couple times on here, but not too often because it's one of those background things, like gender or political affiliation. I am Muslim. I don't think it makes me incredibly different and it's not like I wear a big sign that screams "MUSLIMINA RIGHT HERE FOLKS" or anything, but sometimes things happen that remind me that not everyone thinks it is normal or okay.

I have, over the past couple years, started to break a number of rules as I began wrestling with my faith. Some of the rules just didn't jive with me anymore, and I realized that if I did not really believe in it, I should not be doing it just to fake it. I do, for instance, drink on occasion, though hardly ever to excess; I don't really like alcohol and so avoid it usually. I also have committed a pretty big no-no: I live with my boyfriend, and he is not Muslim.

Islam can be pretty strict about the whole dating thing. When I decided to move across the country with Henrik, I must admit I was nervous about what the Lansing Muslim community would think of this choice and, consequently, of me. I had lunch with the mother of a childhood (male) friend right before I left. Because my mother is not Muslim, it was this woman who showed me how to pray and wear a headscarf; I have known her since I was only a few years old, and she watched me grow into the scrappy, goofy girl that often got in trouble at the mosque for playing with boys but had a good heart. I was most nervous about what she would think, as really the only Muslim woman I was close to. She was certainly surprised, and asked what my father thought. But, after this, she did not berate me or tell me how wicked and terrible I was. She continued on with other questions and, when we parted that afternoon, she gave me books for guidance on my journey and a hug and wished me well with utmost sincerity. We still talk regularly through Facebook, and I receive nothing but support from her.

In my experience, the Muslim folks in my life have been loving and supportive of me and my choices. There's this stereotype that exists about Muslims, particularly about fathers, and how controlling and hateful they are. My father has been incredibly loving. He asked me, before I had ever mentioned intentions of moving with Henrik, when we were planning to start living together, seeing it as the logical next step. He has not been upset with me for dating Jewish, Christian, and atheist boys (and never a Muslim). He has welcomed each boy into our home with a big smile, even those who eventually did not deserve it (he just as quickly cast them out, because he loves me). I never had to worry about my family judging the people I chose to have as partners; I knew they would treat them kindly, no matter who they were. I am the product of a cross-cultural partnering. My parents have been my shining example.

I wish I could say other families were like ours, but, in my experience, most aren't. I have dated 4 boys seriously in my very young life, none of them Muslim. In fact, they were all white, middle/upper-middle class boys raised Christian⎯perhaps I have a type. Something that has also been depressingly in common is their family/friends' dislike for me, on the grounds of my being Muslim.

Today, Henrik introduced me to someone very close to him and his family. I had heard about this woman since I first began dating Henrik and so was eager to meet her. We had even talked about naming our future daughter after her (spoiler: that thought has totally been vanquished on my end). So, when Henrik and I headed to meet her this afternoon, I was excited. I ought not to have been. Without spilling everything on here because I am generally against that sort of thing, I had a very bad time. It included being accused of not being a "real" Muslim, concerns about Henrik's safety coming to meet my family, and⎯worst part⎯the bringing out of a magazine article about a Muslim girl who was killed for dating a Swedish boy. No joke. She left the article out on the table in front of Henrik until we left.

I feel really unsettled, particularly because it was so unexpected. Perhaps I ought to have my guard up more often, because this sort of thing happens every time. I've heard all sorts of things over the years. One family even said that I was nice enough but they didn't want Muslim grandchildren. Great. I feel like I'm always having to defend myself to these people who have their minds made up about me before I enter the door. It makes me seriously nervous about starting relationships with new people; I feel constantly judged and unwanted, anxious that the family had envisioned someone very different from me for their son. I hate feeling ashamed about who I am. It would be nice to go into a relationship and not even consider that my culture, my background, and my name could be repulsive to the loved ones of my partner. Even new friendships make me nervous⎯I once roomed for a week with a very nice girl who told me cheerfully that her family would die if they knew she was rooming with a Muslim, "no offense."

It's hard for me sometimes. I feel sick to my stomach. I don't mean to complain, but sometimes this stuff really bums me out.

12 comments :

  1. it makes me so angry when people are so judgemental, that was so disrespectful of that girl especially as she knows that you are a big part of Henrik's life and happiness.
    hope you're okay beautiful!
    love livvy xo

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  2. Dating is just as important as any other thing in life.

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  3. I'm sorry that happened to you... especially the way it did. And I do understand that you're only going to get older and your perspective on religion will always be changing. But what that woman did was harsh. I'll be sending some love and positive thoughts your way!

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  4. I'm so sorry! This bothers me so much. Growing up in what could often be a very strict Christian family, I have had similar experiences, especially at uni. I can really identify with this, and it's horrible! I find the best thing is to rant it out with a close friend or two, but always be nice to whoever the person is, because as tough as it is, maybe you can be the one to show them that they're horribly prejudiced ideas are wrong.

    Like every other social or religious group in the world, there will be the good and the bad people within it, and it's more on the account of us all being human than anything else. People can be so close-minded some times - it's infuriating.

    Feel better soon! And sorry about my little rant. I hope it helps somehow... Rhi xx

    The Wildest of Dreams

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  5. I'm just delurking to say that I somewhat understand how you feel. I'm jewish and live in a city with a miniscule jewish population. It doesn't happen often but occasionally people can say the weirdest stuff. It also happens that people who I date have the strangest misconceptions (jewish world conspiracy?!?!?). I'm sorry you had to go through this. Keep your chin up and if they really feel this way, they aren't worth your time :(.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear this. It astounds me how people can be so absolutely ridiculous.

    As I'm not Muslim, I can't understand entirely how it must feel for you. However, I teach a class of 23 Muslim children and I purely see them as children. They are absolutely no different to the Catholic, Hindi or atheist children. It breaks my heart to think that these wonderful children, who are so kind and dedicated, will eventually- and maybe already have- come up against such hurtful comments purely because of their faith.

    I am so sorry that you come across people like this. Just remember that you are so much more open, accepting and good-hearted than they could ever be.

    Becky
    xx

    http://www.beckybedbug.com

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  7. Stuff like this makes me so angry. I don't understand why people are all uppity about other people's religions. I'm sorry you've had to deal with this crap.

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  8. I'm sorry this is all happening!! I understand it is your religion but dating people is an important part of life. You have to do what makes you happy and makes you at peace with yourself. Would love it if you checked out my blog popcornandpersephone.blogspot.com
    Thanks Ally xoxox

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  9. I am sorry, I know a little how you feel and it's not a fun feeling. I married a Swiss and his family is not thrilled with him marrying an American. They have made wrongful judgements about me because I am "American" because they made ideas in their head about Americans before they met me. It's not a comfortable feeling knowing my husbands family doesn't entirely approve...but oh well, I married my husband not them. AND little do they actually realize my husband is a very very Americanized Swiss.

    And, don't let that effect relationships especially that with your Henrik. Instead of letting it "defeat" you, let it empower you to show them how awesome you are and it's the person they need to care about. Or just ignore them, that's pretty much what I do{they dont really talk to me anyway cus they dont know very much english}.

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  10. What the hell!!!!! I am outraged on your behalf! That's just awful. I wish, wish, wish people could learn to show a little bit of compassion, or at the very least just not say anything if they're really that at odds with your beliefs (and it's not like your beliefs are hurting anyone!!) Flipping far out. Much love your way lady!! you're a lovely person and don't deserve anything like that to happen to you!

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  11. This is horrible.I can relate to you, I belong to a religion that many people won't (and sometimes don't want to) understand, and I always find myself avoiding to talk about it because in the past I had very bad experiences with people judging me and expressing their stupid prejudices about my belief. And I know it hurts a lot, especially if you had expectations or if the person was very close to you. So, well, I'm very sorry. I just wanted to say I understand you.

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  12. i know exactly what you have gone through. i am not very religious but my boyfriend comes from a super christian family. i too was super excited to meet his sister that i heard so many great things about. as it turns out since jesus isn't my lord and savior she didnt want to waste any time getting to know me and consistently questioned my love about our future and why he would be with someone that isn't christian. we've been together for about 3 years now and she is still the coldest person i know. although she does love to write about how great of a christian woman she is all over facebook. her actions are the most unchristian i have ever come across.
    its the worst when its the love of your life's family member. but all you can do is love one another with all you have and poop on the others!

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Comments make my day⎯really! I love reading what you have to say. Hope to hear from you. :)

Best,
Leila

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