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Muslim Marriage: An Insider's View

Reader comment on item: Faces of American Islam[: Muslim Immigrants]

Submitted by Irfan Khawaja (United States), Aug 16, 2002 at 16:19

I agree with the article's contention that Arab Muslims often view non-Arabs with impatience and arrogance. But the quotation from Shahid Athar from Pakistan Link (1995) does not at all tally with my experience. He claims that Muslim parents would rather that their sons marry "a white American girl" than a Muslim girl of different sect or ethnicity than the son. In my experience, Muslim parents certainly prefer that their children marry within their own sect and/or ethnicity, but they generally prefer that their children marry some sort of Muslim to any sort of non-Muslim, and prefer that they marry Christians rather than Jews. The preferences are stronger in the case of girls/women than of boys/men, but they apply in both cases.

Few observant Muslim parents are thrilled when they finally meet the proverbial "white American girl"--assuming they ever do. Believe me.

Perhaps out of a sense of propriety, the article doesn't mention that marriage preferences are so strong in the Muslim community--and attitudes so insular--that many Muslim parents would prefer that their children marry somewhat distant relatives (cousins, second cousins, etc.) than marry non-Muslims (or in extreme cases, marry outside of ethnicity or sect). This is a surprisingly common if undiscussed phenomenon, both in North America and in Muslim countries. I hasten to add that it has nothing to do with Islam per se; it's an Islamicate custom, not an Islamic religious practice.

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