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A letter: Interfaith marriage and crime

Where do I get my inspiration?
Different places and times: Sometimes it's from personal experiences and events, sometimes it's from stories I hear or read, with a bit of pepper and salt. Sometimes it comes from nature, dreams, and news reports. Sometimes inspiration just comes, from a place unknown to me. Usually, it's a combination of all those things.

Below is a paragraph from my latest performance, "In the Lost and Found", followed by the letter that inspired it. (I apologize for taking so long to publish it Leila.) The letter is set against the reality that in Jordan, as in several Arab countries, a woman cannot transfer her citizenship to her husband (while the man of course can).

"They tell me I will lose my inheritance if I marry a non Muslim. He has to convert, otherwise the marriage is false, the kids are bastards, and the wife is an apostate, her "blood is permitted" - with no punishment to the killer. I am obliged to give my husband my religion, but I cannot give him my citizenship." L;- (In the Lost and Found, March,2011)

Letter from Anonymous

I don't think my story is unique, it happens to many people, but I want to share it with you, because you said this blog is open to women's stories, and I want to purge mine, and start a new page.

I am a young Muslim woman and I am in love with a Christian. The norm in situations like ours is that he has to convert, other wise my parents will disown me. And even if they don't, it's not even allowed-legally, as I would be considered an apostate - a sinner. But his family feels the same way. They do not want him to change his religion, they also think their way is right.

Could both ways be right? Aren't all ways right? People say that the parents have to be from the same religion so as not to confuse the children. But can't they expose their children to both ways and have them choose? Shouldn't religion be based on belief? And what about the talk that "The People of the Book" are all mu'mineen (believers) because they worship the one and only God ... So what's the problem if they intermarry and do not change their religion?

My situation would have been different if he was the Muslim and I was the Christian. I could stay on my religion and marry him because the children will be Muslim anyway, according to the law. But this still does not necessarily make the girl's family accept her. I know several girls from Christian families who had to fight to be allowed to marry a Muslim. Some of them jeopardized their relationship with their family, some were outcast. I also know a couple of Christian girls who married Muslims and their parents accepted their choice and supported them.
But in my case, this is not possible. He has to convert; otherwise we cannot be together. I think there is an Aya about this, but I don't know it.

I cannot really force him to do it, I cannot force him to choose between me and his family. I know he loves me, but he also loves his mother. it's even harder for them, because they are a minority. Maybe we should run away together and live in a place where this is not an issue, but where can we go? Neither one of us has a second nationality.

I'm angry and I am confused.
Should I be upset with him? If he loved me enough, wouldn't he fight the whole world to be with me? But what if he does convert and things don't work out between us. These things do happen. Then what? He will be totally alone. Why don't his parents understand and let him just convert by name? But Islam does not recommend converting just for marriage, he should be convinced. But what if one is not convinced? And so what if a husband or wife are not convinced of their partner's religion? Can't we still love each other? Why do we all have to be the same?

Maybe it's my fault for loving him, I should have just stopped myself from the beginning, but I couldn't. Love does not know religion, it only knows the heart, and when it beats and you feel your soul has found its mate, reason is no longer part of the equation. I could not stop myself from loving him. I hoped that maybe we will fall out of love and things will solve themselves. But we didn't, and they didn't. Maybe we got more attached to each other because we knew our love was forbidden .... who knows. What matters is, we cannot be together.

My parents kept nagging me to get married. I argued with them about it for many years (7 years to be exact), but I'm getting older, and I really want to have a family and raise children. Last week, a distant cousin came and asked for my hand in marriage. I accepted. He seems like a good man, and he is taking me to Canada, he lives there. I will go, and being so far, I might forget that I am living with only half a heart.

I feel like I am betraying both men, I hope I can forgive myself one day.
Thank you for publishing my story

Anonymous (Leila)

Excerpts from my response to Anonymous, I won't bore you with all of it

Dear Anonymous, aka Leila

.... I believe the verse used to explain the rules of interfaith marriage is:
"Do not marry polytheistic women until they believe .... Nor marry your girls to polytheists until they believe."
(Qur'an 2:221). The word used in this verse is 'mushrikeen' which translates as Polytheist; however, some translations of the Quran interpret the word as 'unbeliever' ... but not to dwell on al-ta'weel...
It is important to note that there is an exception to this rule: Muslim men may marry a pious/chaste Christian or Jew, because they are 'People of the Book' and thus are not polytheistic. The children of such marriages are inevitably born and raised as Muslims. However, there is no exception for the woman. She is simply not allowed. I think the rationale is that because the head of the household is the man, he might prevent his children from following their mother's religion. Another explanation is that since a woman follows the leadership of her husband, and he is not Muslim, she should not follow his command. This of course assumes that the woman is under the authority of the man, and it also negates the possibility of relationships based on pluralism and acceptance ....

Three days ago Juliano Mer Khamees was shot outside the theatre he founded in Jenin. Juliano was an actor and activist, his mother was Jewish and his father was a Christian Palestinian. He fought for Palestinian rights. Haaretz says he was killed by Palestinian militants, the Arab media I skimmed through did not mention the identity of his killers. Whomever did this is a criminal. Why do I say this here, because I think it's relevant. Will I explain now? No, this blog is long enough as it is.



Anonymous said…
I can tell you from experience that this is only true in the middle east. In the west, children almost always take on the religion of the mother. In cases of divorce, the custodial parent is the mother 99% of the time, and the custodial parent chooses the child's religion. Yet, muslim men are still allowed to marry christian and Jewish women in the west, while muslim women are not allowed. I don't think it's fair to expect him to convert. If you both believe firmly in your religions, you will be happier with spouses in the same religion so neither of you has to sacrifice your faith, family, and children's faith. And if religion is really important to you, do you really want a husband who would lie about his religion to get married?

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