07 November 2019

Assumptions people make about our marriage

Thursday, November 07, 2019 1 Comments
Wow, never expected such a great response to our marriage story! My husband said I could've added more detail, but then I thought it would be nice to leave a little bit to ourselves ;)

A lot of you said you'd be interested in reading more on the subject, so here we go!

Today we'll be talking about the most common prejudices that people have about mixed relationships, particularly when it comes to the man being a Muslim. I'm sure most of you in my position would have heard at least some, if not all of these, at the early stages of the relationship. Or might still be hearing some!

Here we go, with my list of most common assumptions, judgements and misconceptions about the multicultural marriage:

1) He'll beat you up.

I think we've all heard that with regards to Muslim men, probably more often than we'd like to. Ultimately, it all comes down to this one verse from the Quran, that allegedly promotes hitting the wife if she's disobedient: Surah An-Nisa, verse 34. It keeps getting taken out of context, with people posting this one sentence: "As for women of whom you fear rebellion (...), beat them". 

See, the problem here is that majority of people reposting this verse, only saw this one excerpt, while this bit of the verse, properly translated and including all relevant annotations, goes:

As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, 
admonish them (first), (next) refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat* them (lightly).
[Abdullah Yusuf Ali]

*some translations say "separate them from you"

See, here's the thing with the Quran: when we rely on the translation, all the little linguistic nuances can all get lost in the process. Just pop onto the Wikipedia page for "An-Nisa, 34", and you can see all the variables for yourself. Probably still not gonna convince some of you, but let's just put it out there: hitting, LIGHTLY, as in a little smack, is always the very last resort, and it shouldn't be taken as if Islam is actually allowing husbands to beat their wives up.

Simply put: if a husband is hitting his wife, he's just an arse, and if he tries to justify this with Islam, then he's just looking for an excuse and puts everyone else in bad light 🤷

2) He'll force you to stay at home/forbid you to work

Couldn't be further from the truth for us! I was working when we met, there was a point when I was the one with a stable income when Mr found himself in between jobs, I worked right through my pregnancy, went back as soon as my maternity leave finished... The only reason I reduced my working times, and why I'm currently a stay-st-home mum, is the small issue of childcare - we don't have family to fall back on, no grandparents to babysit while we both work. And the cost of childcare, before we qualify for any free hours, would take up anything I could potentially earn. Although I have my husband's full support when it comes to getting back into the workforce.

Yes, there will be men who are more into the "traditional" family model, in which the man is the breadwinner, and woman's role is to be the housewife. At the end of the day, it's all down to you, whether you're happy to go along with it. And if that works for you, then that's great! Remember, we're talking about men FORCING women to stay at home, sometimes to the extent of stopping them from socialising out of house altogether.

3) He'll kidnap your children

We've all seen these stories: Pakistani/Egyptian/Tunisian/insert any Muslim country/ man takes the kids abroad, and the European mother has to involve the police, private detectives, the lot. I'm not dismissing these stories, I can't even imagine what those families went through - but let's remember it's still a small minority. My husband can just about manage our two in the local park, there's no way he could take them abroad by himself ;) I'm not dismissing the tragic stories here, in which custody battles were quite dramatic, but the point is that you can't assume that your foreign partner is just waiting to take you and/or your children to his home country, just to take your passports away.

4) He's only with you for the visa

Right - this one is tricky. It actually deserves its own post, because it's such a big topic! To sum it up for now: be careful when it comes to men with "complicated" residence status, and make sure you know exactly what you're getting yourself into. Let's be honest - unless your man is a citizen, or at least a permanent resident of the country you choose to live in, there's always that element of uncertainty whether he'll stick around after he gets those papers he needs.

This assumption doesn't just come from "my" people - I've heard the "is it love marriage or visa?" from people on Mr's side as well. When we first visited Pakistan, I once chatted with a lady from my in-laws' village, who seemed quite shocked at the fact we are a love marriage - for lots of people it's just a totally foreign concept, it's the arranged marriage that's the regular way. And it's actually saddening to hear that Asian people themselves assume that a mixed marriage is just for the visa, because that only enforces that opinion which people in the West have, that the papers are all they're after.

5) He'll take more wives / He already has a wife back home

Again, it comes down to what people think they know about Islam. We've all heard that a Muslim can have four wives, right? I've seen this kind of comments a few times: he wants you for visa, or just for fun, but will take another wife from his own culture too. I mean yes, I've heard about such cases - men married European women, and it later transpired that they'd already been married back in their home countries, or they married later because it was expected of them. But the thing is, that these cases are a minority, and polygamy really isn't as common as you'd think because there are certain conditions that have to be met: all wives have to be treated equally, receive same kind of provisions etc. I always laugh that I'm safe, because my husband couldn't afford more wives ;)

6) You're losing your identity for him

Oh, that's the one I've heard a lot: "You're leaving your own culture behind", "You're a traitor of your nation", blah blah. Particularly if the woman chooses to convert to Islam. Ugh! Honestly, it's not like I went and planned it, I didn't go "Oh, I hate Polish guys I'm gonna marry a Pakistani". I'd never, ever have thought that's who I'd end up with! And definitely disagree with the whole "losing my identity" - why, because I might choose to dress differently, don't drink vodka and don't eat pork? I still proudly admit I come from Poland, I use my language, I cook Polish food (minus the pork). I take my husband and kids to Poland, show them the most beautiful places, tell them about my country's history which I'm proud of. I'm not denying that marriage to someone from a different culture influenced me, but I'm still that very Polish me, with my own outlook on the world.

7) "Was he allowed to marry you?"

Yup, I had that one. Hubby heard questions along those lines too. This one came from an assumption, that Asian people are only ever allowed arranged marriages, and only within their own culture. Actually, it's not all that uncommon, you know? I'm in Facebook groups with hundreds of women in marriages like mine, and God knows how many out there are not active on social media. For some reason though, we're still perceived as this odd couple, and every time I meet someone new and I mention that my husband is Pakistani, I hear "Oh wow, that's so unusual! How on earth did you guys meet?".

Edit 8/11: 
8) You will have to convert to Islam, and he'll make you wear the headscarf

I can't believe I forgot this one! This should be at the top of my list really!

First of all, remember this: "There is no compulsion in religion", as mentioned in the Quran itself (surah Al-Baqara, 256). It means that no individual should be forced to accept a religion against their will, and while the Quran offers the guidance, it is up to each of us to choose whether to accept it or not.

You can read about my own story HERE, but to sum it up: my husband did explain things about Islam to me, but never tried to influence my decision. We were together for a while at that time, and I hadn't really mentioned anything to him until the day I said I wanted to say the shahada.

I remember when I told couple of friends that we'd had our nikah - one of them asked suspiciously whether my husband made me repeat any Arabic phrases after him, and she was convinced he might've tried to trick me into converting. Now, if that's the case for anyone - always ask what is it you're saying! Although, even if you do end up reciting the shahada, it wouldn't really mean you've converted if you did it unknowingly!

Remember that: Muslim men are permitted to marry women from the "people of the Book" meaning Christian or Jewish. Don't ever let a man convince you, that you can't get married because you're not Muslim! I've seen many successful couples in my online groups, where the women stayed with their own religion - as long as you reach a compromise regarding the everyday life, raising kids, celebrating religious holidays etc., there's absolutely no reason why it couldn't work! Frankly, changing your religion for any reason other than your own conviction, is just stupid. In Polish we have this saying: "Widziały gały, co brały", meaning that you've known from the start what you're getting into. Honestly, I always say that if a man wanted a nice Muslim woman for himself, he should've found one and not try to turn you into that.

Oh, and for the scarf - can you see me wearing one? My husband actually had this discussion with one of his work colleagues recently, when she claimed that all Muslim men force their women to cover up. Yet here I am, just like many more Muslim women. Married, unmarried. Yes, there are places where women are forced to cover their heads; yes, there are men who will expect their wives to wear headscarves; yes, there are fathers that make their daughters wear hijabs. For most of us though, it really IS a choice. Most of the women I know, who do cover their heads, started wearing hijabs without their husband even knowing that they considered it.

Have you heard any of these, as a result of marrying a Muslim, or anyone from a culture different to yours? What other things have people said to you? Or maybe you're the person having these assumptions - in that case I'd love to hear what other things come to mind when you see a mixed couple like us!

Before you message me or comment - please remember I'm not denying that the bad cases do happen, but I'm speaking from my own experience and observations I've made through other women talking about their mixed marriages, and would really like to show people that a relationship of European woman with a Muslim guy isn't always about the holiday romance with habibi from the hotel making empty promises ;)