We didn't want to get married. For my part I saw it as a symbolic gesture. I don't need any state or organization's "blessing" or approval of my love for someone. Neither did I feel I needed a piece of paper to justify the relationship. My girlfriend felt the same way, but also had serious concerns over her family's reaction, over the legality of her situation, etc. As you're no doubt aware, it's illegal for a Pakistani Muslim woman to marry a non-Muslim man. So instead, I stayed in the country beyond the allowed period of time, and attempted to remain under the radar as much as possible.
|(click to enlarge) While there are increasing numbers of people who don't believe in this in our shrinking world, because of it's impracticality. This is a pretty common traditional view. Incredibly unsettling, this mentality of marrying non-muslim women and ensuring that their children are raised in *your* faith...whilst not allowing your women to marry outside of the faith so their children may not be claimed by another faith. And it's disturbing aside from the treatment of women as objects and baby-making machines. It's disturbing because of the 'conquestatorial' (not a real word, I know) attitude...|
|Image from zawaj.com|
Even though my husband and I are both of Pakistani background, and both belong to Muslim families...his family is *a lot* more conservative than mine (I'd define my family as very progressive, and his as 'moderate', like your in-laws). When our relationship had started getting serious and they heard he'd met a Pakistani girl who had piercings and tattoos, purple hair...they were pretty disgusted.
I'll spare you the details of the drama that ensued. But let's just say that ours wasn't a very traditional, family-filled Pakistani wedding. We had the full support of my family, but not at all of his. His parents didn't attend, they didn't want to know me at all. Prior to our wedding, during phone conversations with my then boyfriend (where his family tried to convince him not to marry me), I was often compared to a 'white woman', a gori - as if that was some terrible insult...as if that was the most incompatible kind of person for a Pakistani to marry.
I didn't actually meet or speak to his parents till years later. I can tell you it's not a wonderful feeling to be so loathed before someone has even met you. Nor is it healthy for a person to suddenly be abandoned by his entire family simply because they choose not to accept who he loves. :(
I too realized just how difficult it was for him to broach the topic of 'us' with his family, and felt terrible for him. Several years down the line, his family and I are civil with one another...but the underlying tension never quite goes away.
Through all this, our relationship as a couple grew stronger, our bond deeper. But there is also some sadness...there are so many questions, so many 'what if's'. Even though I am not an overly girly girl, I did imagine a certain kind of wedding....not one where the love of my life had to make a choice between me and his family.
So I've been there. Despite my being Pakistani and technically Muslim....
If a Pakistani doesn't fit the mould like they are supposed to, even they are met with intolerance.
The part about your parents being fundamentalists and hers being moderates - yet yours being more accepting is incredibly telling. There is definitely something about Islam and Muslim culture that is arrogant and inflexible, where orthodoxy is implied....even amongst our most "moderate". There is a literalist approach to scriptures that isn't present today in the majorities of other Abrahamic faiths.
How are our communities claiming to propagate peace and love, when even such differences are not acceptable to them? I do not know... :/
Islam is newer, several centuries behind....perhaps it has not yet gone through enough witch burnings to reach an enlightenment. What surprises me though is the strict adherence in this age of modern science, social media and the internet. Googling anything, anywhere is a smartphone away. There isn't a good enough excuse to be this orthodox, as intolerant as Christians and Jews from times past. Yet the literalism thrives, the ignorance is using social media to spread itself it seems, rather than eradicate itself.
As you said,
"I wish we could see each other as human beings first, and as Americans or Pakistanis or Muslims or whatever second."
I wish you both the best. Make the most of your travel, and your lives with each other. Use this experience to strengthen your bond. You two have been through a lot together, and sacrificed a lot for each other! You get a head start in terms of marriage-bonding, if you ask me :)
This post is dedicated to my rock and best friend Mr. Mango.
Thanks to my patrons: Fred, Steve, Martin, Ruthless Atheist, Lisa Fontaine, Humanist Agressor, Jesus&Mo, Pastafarian Woman, Alexander, Know the Question, Mb Cunney, Ali, Leneke Van Houten, Alberto and Yasmien - your support means a lot and will help me allocate more time towards writing and drawing!