Lots of things have been going down at LoveInshallah.com and within the Muslim blogosphere. The recent article on Muslim men returning “back home” to find wives generated diverse cyber chatter, with various responses supporting or criticizing different positions. On the heels of that debate, the Miptserz-coining, Somewhere in America, video featuring women in hijabs and cool turbans skateboarding to Jay-Z generated widespread media controversy. Again, Muslims drew well-argued lines on the good, the bad, and the ugly regarding the video’s use of hijab and contemporary representations of Muslim female identity. In the middle of these developments, I had two appearances on NPR’s Tell Me More discussing issues around dating, race, and identity.
These events got me thinking about my own orientation to love and belonging. This would not be page worthy except that these thoughts nudge against how I define myself as a Muslim in conjunction with a desire for love and (re)marriage. I had some epiphanies: my current world is too small and too White, yet I probably will end up with a white, non-Muslim guy.
I gleaned from the dialogue on arranged marriage the Mipsterz video is that the space I inhabit as a Muslim woman — a writer and cultural creative, divorced, someone who has been in and out of the hijab (and one day, may wear it again) — is highly problematic. The American Muslim community isn’t quite ready for large-scale cultural juxtaposition, complexities, and emerging personal narratives. We swear that we are. We want to be. But let’s be real: we still like our world cozy and certain.
My roommate and I sat side by side on our couch, hunched over our respective laptops.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked her.
“Yes, I want to go to Cape Town,” she said.
I showed her my three Kayak windows, open in separate tabs before me. “Buenos Aires costs about the same to get to from New York, but everything will be way cheaper when we’re actually there. And look at these flights to Istanbul: they’re half the price, half the length, and nonstop.”
“I want to go to Cape Town,” she insisted. This being 2012, I don’t think I’d ever heard a broken record, but I imagine this was what it might sound like.
My roommate had seen a friend’s Facebook album from Cape Town the year before, and ever since we’d talked about traveling together, she’d been hell bent on getting there. It had always figured on my list of places to get to eventually, probably with a safari tacked on when I had kids someday, but wasn’t something I’d consider a priority destination. Not like Argentina, which I’d been trying to convince friends to accompany me to for years, or Turkey, which I was ashamed to admit I had yet to see. But she was adamant.
“OK then, if you’re sure. Bismillah.”
I clicked Book.
“It’s because you’re black.”
He repositioned himself in the chair, then looked down at his cup of coffee and grabbed the handle. I could tell this conversation made him uncomfortable.
He was from the subcontinent but had the swag of a black brotha. He said he was having a hard time find a sister from his background because he couldn’t relate to them.
“I’m sorry, it’s just my family wouldn’t be happy…” He said this apologetically while taking a small sip from his drink.
I looked at him from across the table before proceeding to give him a piece of my mind. But then I stopped myself.
Why was I shocked?
I was around three when my mother met him.
He said I took one look at him and hid behind her dress. I peered around as he reached down to pick me up, frantically screamed and did a wiggle move out of his arms.
That was the start of our relationship.
My father (technically step-father), Halil, grew up in rural Turkey. He worked hard and was eventually offered a full paid scholarship to the University of Basel in Switzerland. That is where my mother and I would eventually settle after they met through a marriage ad in Islamic Horizons. My parents were forward thinking even in the 80’s!
Dear Love Inshallah,
At the age of 25, I am fairly new to the world of Muslim dating (or dating at all). I’ve always internalized messages from my community telling me that “dating is haraam” and have stayed away from men for the most part. Over the last few years, I began speaking with suitors, mostly via phone or email, and always with marriage as the end goal. I would always end things early if I didn’t see things working out (sometimes before I truly knew the gentleman).
For the last couple of months, I have been speaking with a new gentleman, and due to distance, our exchanges have been electronic (phone, email, FaceTime). We have set a date and place to meet in person, but this will require him to spend time and money to travel and meet me.
I have many doubts about whether he is right for me. He is older and has more experience dating, including dating women without marriage as the end goal. This was many years ago and he now is looking for marriage. His history has been weighing on my mind, and I wonder if we are too different because of our perspectives on the Islamic rules of engagement. I know there are double standards for men and women when it comes to this stuff, but I don’t want to be the “nice, virginal girl” that a man settles down with after sowing his wild oats.
Given my doubts, should I still meet him? Is it fair of me to ask him to come so far when I am unsure? I have definitely also considered that I may just be scared and looking for reasons to back out of this.
Miss Sunshine replies:
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