Downton Abbey Portrays Reality of Interfaith RelationshipsBy Gerri Miller
Go inside Season 5 Episode 9 where the story line of Atticus and Rose's interfaith relationship comes to a head.Go To Pop Culture
When arranged marriages were common practice, it was background and families that brought couples together. In the modern day however, it is the spark of passion that ignites most relationships. In order to make a relationship succeed, both partners have to constantly work together. Our names are David and Nadia and we would like to share our interfaith personal experiences with you. The two of us met in college and we were in the same classes together. We realized very early that our two backgrounds, probably the most diverse you could come up with--an Italian Jew and a Pakistani Muslim--made our viewpoints very different. In the early stages of our relationship, we faced a lot of negativity from close friends and relatives, but some very strong force kept our relationship together.
By introducing each other to a new world of thought, we both became very open-minded. We started seeing the overwhelming similarities of our two religions and how silly some of the conflicts that arise between Muslims and Jews truly are. We reached a level of communication where we could almost predict what the other would think. However, for the past three years we have had to pursue our relationship in secret. Since childhood, Nadia was forbidden to speak to young men as a result of her family's conservative Islamic ideology. David's family, while more open to the idea of interfaith relationships, was not too enthusiastic about Nadia's Pakistani background. When Nadia's family forced her to move 600 miles to be closer to their new home, both of us had to struggle to see each other. David tries to take a flight or drive to see Nadia at least once every few weeks. For the two years of being apart, we have made the long distance relationship work quite well with hours of daily conversation on the phone.
David actually comes from an interfaith family. His mother is Catholic and father is Jewish. He and his other siblings were raised as Jews. His family has a difficult time accepting the intermixing of the religions as they feel that our children would be faced with adversity. Nadia's family's issues extend far beyond that. Because she is first generation, her family believes in the values and traditions they grew up with. As far as they are concerned, she will marry a Pakistani Muslim man of their choice as a result of an arranged marriage. Their narrow mindset does not allow them to accept interfaith relationships, especially not for their daughter. We believe that when they do find out about us, it will be disastrous and will result in them expelling her from their lives. Therefore, Nadia has decided to leave her family after completion of her college education to live with David and try to join his family.
Dealing with the differences in religion and culture has been a gradual process for us. We have spent lots of time educating ourselves with information about each other's religion and our own religion as well. We have found so many similarities between the two religions that we believe in raising our kids by providing them with the positive fundamental shared lessons taught by both. While it is true that it is difficult to find acceptance in the Pakistani community for interfaith relationships, the Jewish community as a whole is a lot less prejudiced. Perhaps the Pakistani-Muslims base their choice for not accepting such a couple as us on their beliefs that a Muslim woman should never marry a non-Muslim man. In fact, this negativity is clearly stated in the Qu'ran: "Nor marry your girls to unbelievers until they believe. A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever . . . " (2:221). We hope that our generation opens up their hearts and minds and learns to accept interfaith couples more and more.
In planning for the future, both of us are convinced that we want to spend the rest of our lives together and produce a wonderful family. Our kids will be very blessed because they will have parents who have dealt with many difficulties in their lives and can teach them many things about this world from their experiences. David believes that raising our children Jewish will benefit them enormously as it will not only teach them good lessons but will eliminate any negativity that is contained within Islam. It is something noteworthy, as we would not want our daughter to grow up and think she will be punished for marrying a man of her choice, who may be non-Muslim. Nadia wants to keep parts of her culture and teach her kids the positive things that her religion taught her. We are still working out some differences and it will be an ongoing discussion for a couple of years to come.
We believe that communication is key in understanding and making decisions when dealing with the future. Our advice to other interfaith couples is to take the time to have a serious discussion regarding the present and future with their partner and decide if they believe in making enormous compromises. If a partner is stubborn or is unwilling to change, then perhaps you should rethink your relationship. This ordeal is not for everyone, but when you can combine your culture and religion with your partner and bring together a compromise, it can be a beautiful thing.