Once upon a time, Fareed, a tall, dark, and handsome duke of Bangladeshi descent, and Laila, a fair damsel of Eastern European Circassian blood, decided to get married. Having finally found life partners in one another, they embodied all the metaphors and symbols that stand for wedded bliss: white doves, harps and violins, red roses, and a pumpkin that not only turned into a carriage, but remained one even after the stroke of midnight
Once upon a time, Fareed, a tall, dark, and handsome duke of Bangladeshi descent, and Laila, a fair damsel of Eastern European Circassian blood, decided to get married. Having finally found life partners in one another, they embodied all the metaphors and symbols that stand for wedded bliss: white doves, harps and violins, red roses, and a pumpkin that not only turned into a carriage, but remained one even after the stroke of midnight.
But alas, their happily ever was still not to come, for lo and behold, there stood before them an obstacle of great magnitude: their families accepting their racial differences.
It took a lot of strength and courage for them to convince their families that their racial backgrounds were not hindrances, but keys to fulfilling, exciting lives. They shared the same morals and values- and that was enough for them. Many moons later, the family accepted and gave their blessings.
And after that, the couple lived….happily ever after…
There was indeed once a time when such stories were called fairy tales, where the marriage of interracial couples was shelved under “fiction” and “fantasy,” and maybe even “sci-fiction.” But with time, and changing social values in a country juggling millions of people and millions of beliefs, the acceptance of interracial marriage has started to take its own place on the shelf.
According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, an analysis called “Marrying Out” has found that one in seven new marriages in the U.S. is interracial or interethnic (according to U.S. Census Bureau Statistics.)
As far as the breakdown of categories, the report states the following:
“Of the 3.8 million adults who married in 2008, 9% of whites, 16% of blacks, 26% of Hispanics and 31% of Asians married someone whose race or ethnicity was different from their own.”
Giving another perspective, a recent New York Times article, “Black Women See Fewer Black Men at the Alters” discusses the continuously shrinking pool of black men as potential spouses for black women. While this is a recent Pew finding, it is interesting to note the comments below this article that indicate sheer frustration with what is actually a long and historic discourse about the lack of eligible black men, and the forced label of “cat lady” upon black women who are deemed to have hopeless futures without black men as husbands.
The report speaks to a metaphorical marriage of the United States with a new colored identity- the first Black President, the first Latin American Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and at the pop culture end, Aziz Ansari, the first South Asian to host the MTV Movie awards.
It is interesting to note that Muslims cover the cross-section of races that make up the record high of interracial marriages. The report states that 31 percent of Asians married someone outside of their race. (Quick overview: Asia has over 50 countries). That means that those who identify themselves as Asian can be from anywhere from China and the Philippines to Saudi Arabia and Turkey- areas where you can find the highest concentration of Muslims.
We have come a long way from interracial marriages being outlawed in this country, but even those groups that have been reported as having the highest rate of “outside” marriages have pockets that still look down upon interracial marriage.
How do Muslims feel about this news? Theoretically, you can find the majority applauding the study, aligning it with Islam’s celebration of diversity and breaking down class and racial barriers; but practically speaking, there are many parts of the Muslim community that hold racial biases, and interracial marriage still remains a taboo across the Muslim world.
You have the usual reasons: language differences, cultural differences, food differences (we are very sensitive about food), and then the expectation that there is an inability to adopt, assume, or blend those differences. Then there are the surface reasons: light skin color versus dark skin color, fragile frames versus heavy-set frames, hair loss rate, hair-graying rate, and height patterns across various ethnic groups. Some of these cultural stereotypes are kept in mind when spouse-shopping.
Given this, it is time to tell the Muslim interracial marriage narrative as well, to celebrate it, embrace it, and chronicle it, keeping in mind the Quranic verse:
“O mankind! Lo! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another. Lo! The noblest of you, in the sight of Allah, is the best in conduct. Lo! Allah is Knower, Aware.” (49:13).
While it’s nice to see the data on how exactly the human race is progressing on the tolerance and acceptance scale, it is also nonsensical that in 2010, we are still concerned and amused by interracial marriage and the fact that not only can people of other races get along, but that they can actually get married too!
Shazia Kamal is a community activist in interested in social justice issues living in Los Angeles, CA