Opening up the marriage discussion

AltMuslimah is proud to co-sponsor, along with the University of Southern California Muslim Student Union and the USC Office of Religious Life, an upcoming Marriage and Relationships Dialogue at the University of Southern California on April 3, 2011. Here is a glimpse at some of the participants of this event, and their input on a variety of issues related to marriage and relationships in the Muslim community.
Munira Ezzeldine Lekovic is the author of “Before the Wedding: Questions for Muslims to Ask Before Getting Married,” and a radio host for the show “Family Connection” on One Legacy Radio. She completed her Bachelors in Economics at UCLA, and went on to receive her Masters in Marriage and Family Counseling at California State University – Fullerton. She has also contributed to

Dr. Omar Ezzeldine is an instructional and accountability coach at Action Learning Systems, which provides in-classroom professional development to teachers primarily in public schools. He is also an assistant adjunct professor at USC’s graduate School of Education.

Munir Shaikh is an Adjunct Professor of Religion at Orange Coast College, and a director of the Institute on Religion and Civic Values. He served on the board of the Muslim Youth Camp of California from 2005-2010, works on youth education and interfaith initiatives, and consults on projects dealing with Islam and its place in world history.

Hosai Mojaddidi is the co-founder of MH4M ( She has been actively involved with the Muslim community in the San Francisco Bay Area and the Southern California community for nearly 15 years. By serving as a private mediator (marriage/divorce), advisor and mentor to many, she’s witnessed firsthand many of the mental health issues plaguing the Muslim community, particularly the youth.

On the importance of real discussions about marriage in the American Muslim community.

“…We have idealized marriage and given theoretical frameworks for getting married but have not tackled the intricate details of how couples get to know one another for marriage. It is one area that no one wants to address publicly and no scholars have been able to give young Muslims in the U.S. practical advice as to how to get to know someone for marriage. This is why panels [and discussions] such as this one are important because it will open up the discussion across generations and cultures and hopefully try to address the real challenges people face as they seek to get married.” – Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine

“The bottom line is this: Current and future generations are struggling to find spouses via the traditional methods of “back home” and yet feel conflicted regarding a complete acceptance of the modern-day “American dating scene.” We need to open up the discussion around what is an acceptable way to seek out and get to know someone for marriage as well as what are appropriate interactions with the opposite gender in this American context.” -Omar Ezzeldine

“It’s critical to move beyond theoretical discussions of Islamic ideals and recognize that human interactions require trade-offs of various sorts, and the maturity to meet real-world challenges effectively. It’s also important for Muslims to come to terms with their own humanness in a shared landscape, to take ownership of their feelings and aspirations, to communicate honestly with others, and recognize that everyone struggles to improve through their own understanding and application of Islamic teachings.” – Munir Shaikh

“Many Muslim youth are grappling with the unprecedented challenge of assimilating into a society that glorifies self-indulgence, materialism and promiscuity while trying to maintain their Islamic identity as well as preserve the cultural traditions and expectations of their parents. This constant juggling act can often lead to serious physical, emotional, spiritual, or mental health issues down the line. With regards to the issue of marriage specifically, such a severe identity crisis can diminish or even destroy one’s confidence in the process of mate selection.”-Hosai Mojaddidi

Thoughts on the evolving definition of “family”

“In my view, the institution of marriage is not so much about its customary gendered definition, though that is a real quality, but about the emotional and spiritual commitment between two individuals. Mutual commitment, trust and support between two individuals stands at the heart of “marriage” as such, and this naturally involves mutual attraction and exclusive intimacy. Public witnessing or acknowledgement of this exclusive relationship is also vital for it to be considered marriage.” -Munir Shaikh

“I think the traditional definition of family and marriage is still a norm within the Muslim community and it is something that our community is strongly trying to hold onto in order to preserve its religious and cultural values. I think the challenge to Muslim American families is the stronger emphasis on the nuclear family and less on the extended family which goes contrary to cultural norms in many Muslim countries. Reconciling these differences and accepting the changing family dynamics is a struggle for many.” – Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine

“I still remain on the side of a traditional definition of the nuclear family, however I acknowledge and welcome the current social and political challenges of redefining them. Whatever the result of these discussions/debates, I only hope that each group still gets to define themselves in the way they want without imposing on the rights of others.” – Omar Ezzeldine

“…Like so many other communities before us and after us, we are not impervious to dysfunction and/or change which is why we are seeing an increase in divorce, single-parent households, selective childlessness, etc. I truly believe that a major contributor to why we’re slowly shifting away from the nuclear family is because of a lack of self-discovery prior to marriage at the micro or individual level. A person cannot and will not succeed in the Islamic model of a marital relationship if he/she has not truly analyzed themselves and discovered who they are, what they have to offer, and what they need to seek from a marriage.”-Hosai Mojaddidi

On challenges in the working and professional atmosphere

On “Family Connection” we seek to address topics that are relevant to contemporary Muslim families and we don’t shy away from taboo topics or uncomfortable subjects… For instance, we promote positive discipline which engenders mutual respect and communication between family members and this could be difficult to accept for authoritarian parents, yet as mental health professional we seek to empower our community and to help them build stronger relationships and families…” -Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine

“I have spent nearly 15 years helping various Muslim couples from different ethnic backgrounds try to resolve their marital issues. I’ve also spent a great amount of time and energy trying to help bring people together for the sake of marriage. In both areas I feel a common challenge I face is the incredible amount of negligence and general lack of concern to how serious marriage is and how detrimental it can be if not handled with care and concern. Those who are married often take their blessings for granted and become too self-absorbed to care about the consequences of their actions and those who are not married but wish to be are so blinded by their deluded misgivings and overly-dramatic, romanticized notions about marriage (particularly the wedding process) that they rush into unhealthy situations.”-Hosai Mojaddidi

What kind of guidance do young people need?

“It seems that it would be much more beneficial to spend one’s teenage and early adult years focusing on oneself, acquiring as much knowledge and skills as possible, and cultivating a solid, ethical, emotionally well-adjusted personality, before becoming involved with someone else. After marriage, and having children, one’s focus naturally must gradually shift to the needs of one’s dependents rather than oneself, so it’s important to take advantage of the time one has before embarking on the next phase of one’s life in marriage. Having said this, young people can and should develop meaningful and lasting friendships with their male and female peers, but in doing so will have to learn how to navigate boundaries, and avoid inappropriate behaviors.” – Munir Shaikh

“Unfortunately, both young and old (and in between) are quick to assume they understand and that the other is not interested in understanding. Sadly the first assumption is often wrong and the second assumption is often right. Work toward genuinely making the other person feel understood -that is my advice to both young and old.” – Omar Ezzeldine

On the role of AltMuslimah and related platforms:

“I think AltMuslimah needs to continue to give voice to mainstream Muslim Americans through its articles and community outreach. By addressing the issues that are on the minds of average Muslims, it is providing a venue to share ideas and encouraging intellectual thought and discourse for Muslim Americans everywhere.” – Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine

“Get the message out in ways only the media can. Munira and I had a program on One Legacy Radio a few weeks ago about this exact topic. Encourage people to listen to the podcast and join in the discussion. Get notables in different social circles to blog and write articles and get the discussion going. Don’t let the critics muffle the discussion.” – Omar Ezzeldine

“AltMuslimah provides a great space for difficult conversations to take place. It does not carry a dogmatic or ideological quality, so it serves as an honest broker for divergent ideas to be presented. It allows the readership to form its own opinions. This is absolutely critical, as in today’s world individual agency is prized, rather than behavior that is coerced by authority figures. Each person shall be accountable before God for their choices, so let people make their –hopefully informed – choices.”- Munir Shaikh

“AltMuslimah is a leading example of the incredible impact a diverse, educated, and driven group of young Muslim-Americans can have. By continuing to provide balanced, well-researched, and thoughtful analysis of critical issues affecting Muslims, especially with topics like marriage and relationships which impact Muslims of every age and background, AltMuslimah can challenge Muslims to think beyond the confines of culture and dogma.”-Hosai Mojaddidi

We hope you will join AltMuslimah at the University of California for an honest dialogue about marriage and relationships.

Event: Muslims in America: Relationships, Dating, Marriage, and Divorce
Location: The Forum, USC Trojan Campus Center 450
Date and Time: April 3rd, 1:30pm
Sponsors: Altmuslimah, the USC Muslim Student Union, and the USC Office of Religious Life.
Shazia Kamal is Associate Editor of Altmuslimah.

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