Parents must consider character and decency of proposed spouses and their families and then look at their background.
I am a Muslim-twenty-something, born, educated, and raised in U.S.-with Muslim, Pakistani immigrant parents who are both highly educated. I consider myself a good and decent Muslim person. God and my duties come before everything in my life. I am also extremely close to my family-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins-in Pakistan. I have visited Pakistan with my family almost every other summer of my life, and I still keep in touch with them regularly. In short, I know where my priorities lie, and this is how my parents have raised me.
Now, it is time for me to find a life partner, and my parents only want the best for me. Of course, I understand this. I personally feel that another Muslim, raised in this country, who has similar ideals to me, would understand me best and would be able to relate to similar things and issues I’ve experienced all my life. I also want my spouse to be my friend. My parents, however, seem to have the idea-similar to some other Muslim/South Asian parents in Western countries-that a spouse from their country would be better. Better for whom? Better for me or better for them? Is this preference due to the fact that they feel culture, ethnicity, and religion would be better preserved this way? And why are some more lenient about a girl whether raised in the West or abroad-marrying a guy raised in the West, whereas if you are a guy raised in the West, it is better to marry a girl from” back home”? I not only disagree with this view, but it really hurts my feelings and makes me question whether first generation Muslim kids (male or female) raised in this country are not worthy marriage partners? This is the message many kids in Western countries indirectly receive, and I think it is very unhealthy. It has a powerful effect on their self-esteem and social development, whether people realize this or not.
I personally know many youth of Muslim background in Pakistan/India who know less about Islam than those raised here in the U.S. and have less of a sense of the cultural heritage that I hold so dear. Sometimes it even ‘seems’ that kids over there-aside from their ‘perfect’ upbringing-seem only to be interested in the latest Hindi movie or the latest music video on MTV Asia or the latest clothing to wear to weddings that sometimes last 7 days. Similarly, some of those kids here may ‘seem’ devoid of values or highly ‘Westernized.’
My point is, why shouldn’t every Muslim be given a fair chance and judgments made only after personally getting to know a person and their family? Parents that have immigrated to Western countries should realize that a great part of their child’s identity is indeed Western in nature and that this fact should not be ignored but acknowledged. Ignoring any aspect of identity is akin to ignoring part of that person’s existence. Furthermore, despite popular belief, there are many good things about having a ‘Western’ identity. After all, why else would our parents have come here in the first place?
I wish that parents would really listen-I don’t mean hear, I mean truly listen and engage-to what their kids want instead of assuming that they know what is best for them. I wish parents would go to their kids, discuss with them, respect their opinions, and ask what would make their kids comfortable. With this critical dialogue, both sides can express their views. After all, it is the rest of one’s life we are talking about here.
Sometimes, though, the problem can become worse at this point because it can be hard to have a ‘real’ discussion with parents, and kids may say random things just to make their parents happy and not disappoint them. For me, it is hard to approach my parents with these sensitive issues as I don’t want them to ever think that I am implying bad judgment on their part. I do not want to offend them or ever make them feel that they are bad parents. So what to do?
Ideally, I would love to marry another Muslim raised in the U.S. Other than the criteria of being a Muslim, I just wish that parents would first look at the character and decency of another human being and their families and then look at their back-ground-culture, language, likes, class, and career. I feel that when I raise these issues I am speaking for many other young people in my situation.