Monday, April 5, 2010

"Cultural Problems"

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

بسم الله

What does it really mean when people cite "cultural" differences for reasons why two Muslims should not get married?

This phrase gets bandied about quite a bit. I have heard it in my community and online a lot and while it seems pretty unassuming on the face of it, I feel like there is a much deeper meaning.

These are the things I hear when people say cultural differences are the reason a convert from the west should not marry into another culture (since this of course is most applicable to my situation, lol)
1. "She is not our (insert ethnicity here)" > Like when I hear people say "Pakistanis are for Pakistanis, Arabs are for Arabs" etc. or things like "If you dilute the gene-pool, we will lose the physical characteristics that make us *this ethinicity*" (yes I have actually heard that) "Kids will make fun of your children because they look different"

2. "Oh she is from (insert western country here) so she would not be willing to live in our home country" > How totally unfair to make this judgment on every Muslim woman from the west... There are a lot of us who would TOTALLY like to get out of here. Do you think it is comfortable to be asked where you are from when you have lived in the same town your whole life?!?!?

3. "she is a convert, so she may not be able to teach your children everything they need to know" > This can happen in the case of a convert or a born Muslim woman. I know convert women who, mashaAllah, have raised incredibly knowledgeable children.

4. "She will make you choose between us and her." >Ridiculous. Us convert women just want to be part of a Muslim family. khalas, thats all!!!!

5. "We will lose our cultural heritage, your children wont be real (insert nationality here)" > Uh... nope again. Just because a child knows a part of another culture does not mean they will know nothing of their father's culture. Oh and P.S. Nationalism is a characteristic of the Time of Ignorance before Islam, so maybe we should cut that stuff real quick.

There are more but I feel like I am really just ranting now...

This topic really confuses and hurts me a lot, because my prospects for marriage one day are going to be slim to none if this "cultural" idea is in everyone's heads.

Honestly people, our culture is ISLAM. If we don't see eye to eye, ISLAM has a solution, subhanAllah. Are you afraid to let go of your cultural Islam? That us convert women will rebel against the stuff that others have tacked on to Allah's beautiful religion? Maybe all you need is some fresh blood. Allahu alem.

What do you guys think? About inter-racial/cultural couples, about "cultural problems" about anything?

I'm really interested to hear what you have to say :-)

Also if I went too far let me know. I am aware that there are historically problems in inter-cultural couples, but I think that with firm intention and attention to the sunnah, most of that can be worked out. Islam is comprehensive.


Khadijah C. said...

Assalam Alaikum,

I guess facing cultural issue is one of the biggest challenge of a muslim revert...

Many born muslim do not really know about the Qur'an and Sunnah... They think they do, but they don't~ Often, they forgot that both are the point of references that we, as muslim, have to refer to~

As I dare to say, reverts are following Islam more than some of the born muslim because we read and we believe...

There are bound of be conflicts in daily life, but isn't that what Qur'an and Sunnah are for? They are for us to return to them and seek solutions...

But often, many born muslim do not know... They are also confuse with culture and religion~

On serious thought, if born muslim claimed to be muslims, as they what ought to be, then why are they still branding the new revert and themselves based on cultures and nationalities... It just doesn't make sense...

I guess this is the biggest challenge in our ummah... Subconsciously, we divide ourselves into nationalities and cultures~ And forgetting that we are a big big big happy family, just living in different parts of the world~

Again, this is just a point of view from a revert... =D

LK said...

I'm in this situation. It has a lot to do with cultural pride. They really do believe their culture is better. They think all women from the west are corrupt. And that we will definitely divorce our husbands if things get a little difficult. We will refuse to take care of our husbands. And all converts are bad muslims or they will go back to being whatever they were before. But only women converts, male converts are great. They think their children can't relate to a westerner not realizing that their children ARE westerners!

This will get less and less as there are more generations of born muslims in the west. But until then, we have to deal with stubborn in laws who want all their children to go back to the home country, find a woman, and bring her back. Because somehow they are automatically better.

Banana Anne said...

Assalaamu alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatu!

Oy vey, this whole issue annoys me too! I am not married right now, nor am I looking to marry for a while (I want to finish school first and Insha'Allah become more knowledgeable and mature in my faith beforehand). However, I think I would prefer to marry a fellow convert (any race) and an American, because a convert would understand some of the things I struggle with, and an American would also understand my culture and me his. These are just my personal preferences, though, and I don't expect anyone else to follow them. Despite my opinion, I also have problems with the things that you mentioned. My comments for each quote:

1. "Diluting the gene-pool"...I'm sorry, but what the heck??! That is absolutely nonsense, and frankly sounds like the scary racist nonsense the Nazis propogated against Jews, Roma, etc. during World War II.
2. Totally not true. Yes, there are some Muslim women that would like to stay in the USA (myself included), but this in no way means everyone does.
3. I've heard this before too (not personally, Alhamdulillah), and I find it very insulting. I studied for YEARS before converting, and assuming that converts are less knowledgeable than "born" Muslims is discriminating against members of the ummah, which is wrong.
4. I don't even get this one...
5. People can belong to more than one culture. It happens all the time. And Ameen at your statement about nationalism; it's a real problem that seems to affect Muslims even though it is specifically warned against by the Prophet (saw).

I am an American, but I am also Muslim. Yes, this is possible; I simply reject aspects of American culture that don't fit in with Islam and keep those that do. I would encourage every Muslim to keep their culture because ALLAH has said that He has made us different tribes so that we may know one another. As long as we make sure that certain unIslamic parts of our cultures aren't followed, and as long as we remember that being part of the Muslim ummah trumps any nationalistic/cultural identities, it's all good. :)

My Getaway said...

My mother is from the West and my father is from the Middle East, my uncle is also married to a lady from the west too and we don't have the whole cultural issue.

I don't agree with LK saying "they think all women from the West are corrupt" cause my father's family never thought that.

But my mom tells my father she doesn't think she could ever live in his country, which is an issue for them right now.

NeverEver said...

Khadijah C.: I definitely agree with you, and it is a really sad state for us to be in. I just recently went to your blog and saw the part you posted from Sister Aminah that deals with this issue as well. She is so right... thanks for that post and this comment as well :-)

LK: I think you are right that a lot of Muslims who have spent most of or even all of their lives here have SO much more in common with a western revert than they would with someone from the "motherland" if you will. I think there would be even more culture shock involved with someone from back home in that case.

Anne: yeah I put the gene-pool thing in my words but you get the gist. I have heard people say that your children wont look like you or that there are specific features native to people of a certain "culture" (i.e. race) that would disappear. On #4 I mean that some parents feel that if they marry a westerner their spouse will eventually make them choose to either stay with their family or move away with them, or that if their child marries a westerner when they didn't want him/her to, then their child will put their spouse before the rest of their family in everything.

Getaway: MashaAllah wa alhamdulillah it is good to hear that it works in some people's cases. I think the corrupt thing just depends on who you talk to. Some who have never really met a convert might think this if they look around and see the kind of things that westerners do here (astaghfirullah), but if they have been exposed to good westerners, then maybe it wouldn't be an issue. I think willingness to move to a country is something you realllly have to think about before you get married. You have no idea what will happen in the future and it may become a big deal for your spouse when it wasn't in the beginning. I think you should be willing to move before you marry anyone from another region of the earth. Just my opinion though :-)

Sarah Plain And Short said...

As salam aleikom,

Well my mom is from Europe and my dad is from North Africa...and I grew up in Canada. I don't feel attached to any particular culture..I take the good from both. And I also feel that since I'm mixed I don't feel tied down so much with all these 'cultural' expectations..I try to put Islam as my culture. I also married someone from a diff. Arab we both have some similar cultural ways and sometimes we don't but we have carved our own little niche. We don't really get caught up in what is done 'back home' since we both know that is not what Islam is all about. I think problems do arise in mixed culture marriages or any marriage when partners have diff. expectations. Having the same culture does not make the marriage divorce proof at all.

Sarah Plain And Short said...

and honestly kids DO NOT CARE if a kid is mixed and what not...its parents who put racist ideas in their heads.I've never had problems growing up with other kids..only problems with adults and their backwards mentality.lets face it..mixed kids of my generation are becoming the majority.

Stacy aka Fahiima said...

What I have noticed too, is that convert women often take more time to keep learning about Islam and impart that knowledge to their children. Cultural Muslims on the other hand, tend to stagnate with their level of knowledge in the deen and figure they already know enough. Of course, that is only a generalization.

Halfcalf said...

Assalamu alaikum my dear NeverEver,
I could rant about this issue for awhile, so like Banana Anne, I'm just going to comment about each quote...

1.Astagfirullah!!!(not going to say anything else on this one)

2.This is not true.. You cannot make judgments OR *decisions* about/for anyone but yourself. I know women who have gotten married and moved to their husbands' county and, Alhamdulillah, they're happy.

3.Like you said, this can happen in the case of a convert or a born Muslim. Just because you are born into Islam, doesn't mean that you chose Islam. Unfortunately, I know MANY Muslims who choose, on a daily basis, to abbandon the teachings of the Quran and the practices of our beloved Prophet(S.A.W.). You don't have to be a born Muslim to teach your children Islam, just refer to the Quran and Sunnah...

4.I actually had this conversation with a very religious Arab Muslimah, mashAllah. This pretty much sums up what we both concluded: If it gets to the point where the husband has to choose between his wife or his family, this will show his wife his real love for her. If he fights for her, because he doesn't want to lose her, then he really does love her. If he doesn't even try fighting for her, did he ever *really* love her before? This is a very painful situation for everyone involved... Allah knows best.

5.Tell these people that we need to stop bringing culture into religion, but bring religion into culture.

This ummah needs to realize that we are one ummah, or no ummah. What has it come to, when Muslims don't acknowledge that we are all brothers and sisters to one another, and that no one can judge us but our Creator? When we do not unite as one, how will we ever unite on the bigger issues? May Allah guide us all out of this darkness and into the light. Ameen.

With love,

Sara said...

May Allah guide you and grant you with a pious Husband who looks past cultural differences.


My Getaway said...

Well she actually has been there to visit many times but it is just a very different way of life than here so I also understand where she's coming from.

Leila said...

Asalaamu Alaikum sister,

I can totally feel this burning in my skull. I have this issue with my husband now for the past two years that I've moved to live with his family.
If there were fights, Ya Allah they would always say things that hurt, especially about the fact that I'm a revert so I am not pure, and such and such. There's also the problem that when I first came everyone assumes I know nothing and tells me my way of Islam is not proper (and now they changed their mind only after getting PEACE TV - Islamic Channel). And a few times it hurt to hear that "my son would have not been in this mess if he just married a *ethnicity* woman".

Don't worry, I totally feel you here. Insha'Allah , Allah will make things easier for the believer. Stay strong sister!

JazakAllah Khair.

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

Salaam alaikum sister!

I detest racism and I have found that some of the most racist people are muslims (when it comes to marriage). For example most muslim families are accepting of their daughter or son marrying someone of a different race if they are caucasian or a race similar to their own. If that person is black the same family automatically has issues with it)

Our prophet (pbuh) married women from different races so who are we to limit ourselves and say we can and should only mary within our race. Islam encourages us to marry outside of our race.

I too have heard people claim that arabs should only marry arabs arabs(even read it in an islamic book)

I find it sad when one race feels superior to another race and feels that their children should only marry within their race. These same people are obsessed with beauty and everyone knows that when you mix races the outcome is beautiufl kids. This is especially important in the pakistani-indian culture. They are obsessed with fair skin and beauty.

I remember when I first converted to Islam and was looking to get married I came across men who followed numbers 1, 3, 4 and 5 and tried to convince me that I would have trouble marrying into another race.

Needless to say I didnt listen to them and I am now in an interracial marriage and alhamdulilah my in-laws are very accepting of me.

I find that the people who are most concerned with interracial marriages are the older generation (parents, grand parents etc) They try to convince their children that they know best and use a few weak examples of couples who came from different cultures/races and are now divorced. Just because couples from the same race/culture have a lower rate of divorce does not mean its better. These same people have stigmas against divorce so the woman usually stays even though she is unhappy.

Instead of focusing on culutre and race parents need to first focus on finding a spouse for their kids who prays 5 times a day, has knowledge of islam and follows the quran and the sunnah. This should be first, not what race are they or how much money do they make!

Candice said...

I've heard of people having issues like this that are totally ridiculous. Not wanting their child to marry outside the nationality is just ridiculous!

But cultural differences are very real and important to consider.

My mother in law is great and approved of me when I was Christian, and continues to approve of me as her son's wife (and mother of his children) so I'm lucky not to have had those problems. But the cultural issues are there between me and my husband. Arabs (which is what I have experience with and what I know other sisters to have had experience with) are oftentimes Muslims, yes, but cannot tell the difference between what is their home culture and what is Islam. They have all sorts of things they think is Islamic when it's just not.

I love interracial and intercultural marriages, but a couple needs to believe in the same things to make it work. It's SO MUCH more work than being with someone from the same culture! Islam is our religion, but we have more than that on both sides (our cultures), and with Arabs especially, it's DEEP! I feel that generally, converts know what is culture and what is Islam a lot better than anyone and so they request things that a wife from the same culture as the husband would not. And it's frustrating for them not to have Islam on their side on a lot of these things!

Umm Afraz said...

Assalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmathullahi wa Barakaathuhu.

First of, you go girl!! Such a great post! I hate hate hate mixing culture issues and Islam. It so gets on my nerves!! But unfortunately, back from where I come from (its a small village-cum-town in the south of India)...most dont even marry inter-street!! Yes, you read me right! I said inter-street!!! So you know how I feel about inter-cultural marriages..grrr!!!

And yeah, I too believe most reverts follow and stick to Islam better than raised Muslims...but then again, its a vast generalization..I know many raised Muslims (me included Alhmadhulillah) who learn more about Islam as they grow up..of course, given the right tools and such, Insha Allah, everyone will be guided.

Aameen to all the adeyah offered.

Wassalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmathullahi wa Barakaathuhu.

Is-za Jelass said...

Ok. Number one I understand there are some women who here are reverts and alhamdoolilah for your paths to Islam. But this continuous statements and support for the notion and it is a notion that reverts are somehow adopting the religion better than Muslims "born" into it unfounded and sounds just as unfounded as someone claiming a revert wouldnt live up to being knowledge.

I hope the people who have said these things think critically. One issue that reverts face is that they because extreme in their beliefs. We know that there is no extremism allowed in Islam this is against what the Prophet swt advocated. And this is an issue that many new reverts by being excited about the faith face when they first come to the religion. Also just because you are raised in the west and you revert does not mean that you yourself are exempt from cultural pathologies. White people still have a culture, black people do, the US does. You can erase this completely but you can police it. People in the US tend to think that we are "blank slates" and everyone else is holding on to something.

Absolutely wrong, the way we walk, talk, handle friendships, speak we do have a culture and it is not closer to Islam than someone born in Pakistan. Everyone has to balance their own good and bad.
So lets recognize the reality.

Number 2- we have to see the nuances of this situation. There is a difference between being weary of someone who is a revert and being weary of someone is a white american or white canadian. You have to understand why there is this apprehension. When I lived overseas the majority of the people in certain facitilies like clubs and alcohol bars were usually caucasions from western countries. When you turned on the TV, videos, movies all that etc where there is masked kissing and sex...who? White or black from western countries. (thanks to our media) and when men would go out with girls...who? americans, or russians or westerners. This is what they see ladies. This is the perception. Even if you put on hijab they have these perceptions. Mind you this is coming from someone who was born in the states, grew up with Muslims and non and started to see why when I walked down the street I barely got noticed when someone who was caucasion looking or non arab in appearance were harraassed. There is an assumption that such women are loose. I lived with three roommates who against my wishes brought men in the apartment and did God knows what. THe people in the building saw this and it was humiliating. This is the perception. SO before we go bashing what "they" think, try to recognize that it is not as simple as we want it to be. OUr media, our tv, and certain types of ppl overseas are more visible and unapologetically help promote these stereotypes.

Now being Muslim should change it. We should all be accepted as we are. My blog is dedicated to calling out these issues and I hope those interested will read my posts that talk specifically about racial bias. I agree with one sister writing above that the women who face the biggest barriers are African American. We don't have to guess why. Inshallah the ladies who are yet married you have an easy path to find a great guy one day. But lets not project our misunderstandings and cultural insecurities when faced with others.

Salam wa alaykum :)

Is-za Jelass said...

eww i was writing the message so quickly and didnt edit, please ignore those obvious mistakes

Prophet pbuh lol

Rene´s Bare Essentials said...

"One issue that reverts face is that they because extreme in their beliefs."

Can you give some examples of extreme beliefs? I hope you are not referring to the Niqab (which a lot of reverts wear) or segregation between sexes, etc.

"When I lived overseas the majority of the people in certain facitilies like clubs and alcohol bars were usually caucasions from western countries."

I would have to disagree. Perhaps a lot of the women who go to clubs are light skin or european/american decent, although there are more and more arab and indian/pakistani women joining them, alot of the men at these clubs and bars are arab, Pakistani, indian, etc. These same men judge the women at the club but forget they are also there engaging in the same activities. I used to see this behavior at my university all the time and got sick of listening to Arab men (and other muslim men of asian decent) talk about how easy European and American women when they themselves were engaging in the same activities which makes them just as easy. The difference is these same men judge the women and look down on them all the while having fun and using them until they have it out of their systems before settling down and marrying some girl from back home who has no idea what her new husband has been up to. Whereas the women are less likely to use the men and judge them and do the same.

I truly feel that a muslim (man) who is brought up properly (follows the quran and the sunnah) will not have these racist and cultural beliefs. They will not look at every revert or light skinned woman and think the worst. That is because they themselves have not engaged in such activities and can separate culture from islam.

Is-za Jelass said...

Salam alaykum sister

Number 1 please do not try to assume my religious beliefs. If I do not state them, then it is improper to assume then. Plus its not good adab :)

When I talk about extremity I am reffering to something similar to to what this lovely sister wrote about who herself is a revert...

As for the second part, it wouldnt make too much sense to start a numbers game debate such as number of Americans vs number of homeland ppl. These are my personal experiences living overseas. It does not mean that ALL americans did this and that all NON homelanders didnt. :) ANd it has nothing to do with double standards. I am talking about sociology and perceptions of the Other. This is the complaint that many sisters have here. I am not disagreeing with them but rather clarifying where I think it is coming from.

Of course this doesnt mean that white or black, or american/european/western are to be blamed. I never said anything like that in my post. Nor did i make excuses for their double standards. I merely wish to say we shouldnt believe that we are exempt of cultural biases by virture of being born in this country or converting.

I truely believe that when we say all reverts or Americans dont do that (being racist about marriage) which is the feeling I got from the above assertions...sister THIS IS PROOF that we harbor cultural biases.

Why? Because the belief that americans, western, or white folks lack a culture and are inherent blank slates, that they dont suffer from cultural pathologies comes from a belief of cultural superiority. We do have a culture but it is nuanced differently, masked differently, covered up differently.

When we see something wrong in someone else, instead of blaming them my first instinct is to understand where it comes from and why I may be in some way guilty of the same act.

Your last statement by the way...I couldnt agree more sister!!! ;)including the complaints about double standards although it was not neccessary. A Muslim man with true akhlaq and taqwa wouldnt care but unfortunately as we can tell it is not always what they practice. So at last I just feel istead of say "they do this" "we arent like them" "they are being good Muslims" but "we are." I hope you can see whats wrong with these assumptions subhanallah

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