S- No, I am not. I do not think that M would require me to wear a head covering unless deemed needed by tradition. There are certain times where I am required to wear a head scarf like if I were to pray, etc. I am sure M can elaborate more because I do not know all the times I am required too.
M- I will try to explain very briefly here. First of all why Hijab is required in Islam? It is said in Quran that “A woman’s best jewellery is her shyness.” Hijab is practiced to cover up the head and the body from a stranger man who may look with an evil eye and with bad intention towards a woman. Hijab isn’t obligatory unless you’re praying. It’s the time when you’re required to cover your head. Hijab is practiced when women go out in the markets and there are every kind of men who may look at them with bad intention, so just to avoid that condition Hijab is worn but of course it’s up to me here if I want S to wear that or not. With me, it’s totally okay, I don’t want her to wear a Hijab. I’m there to protect her! Nobody can dare look at her with bad intention when I’m around.
Are you forced to convert to Islam?
S- No. M has already stated that he loves me regardless of what I choose.
M- I’ve never forced S to convert to Islam. I always told her about it whenever the religion came up in our conversations and she always develops interest in knowing more about my religion and asks me about different things that we practice. I have accepted her the way she was.
What about Muslim traditions?
S-I will observe them when need be out of respect and love. I will not be able to partake in Ramadan due to my blood sugar issues. We will also follow dietary traditions unless M has other thoughts on this.
M- That’s alright S will not be able to partake in Ramadan because of obvious reasons, and that’s quite okay. I look forward to be following dietary traditions as much as possible. Eating ‘Pork meat’ is prohibited in Islam, so we’ll restrict ourselves. As far as other dietary traditions are concerned, they can be followed if possible provided means of availability is there. Otherwise it’s okay.
What about the girls? Will they be forced to convert and follow traditions?
S- We’ve had an in depth conversation on this subject. We will teach them about Islam and Muslim traditions. We will never force them to become something they do not want to be. Yes, I will have them follow traditions that we both approve out of respect. It will be used as tool for greater good and knowledge. If they want to convert or not when they are older, we would be supportive and loving either way.
M- No, certainly not. I would never force the girls to convert or follow traditions. However, I and S together will, from time to time, tell them about the culture and traditions and discuss religion with them. Rest is in their hands, as they grow up they will be able to see and choose what’s good for themselves.
Since we know you are planning on having more children, what about those children and Islam?
S- M wants them to be brought up in Islam. I do not have an issue with this. The girls have had years of other religions and cultures beneath them, so it would be more abrasive and alien to the girls and tarnish their opinions on Islam. By this time the girls should have had enough exposure to be OK with their step siblings being raised fully in Islam traditions. If our biological children decided to no longer accept Islam, then I will love them and supportive them no matter what because they are still my children.
M- Yes, we will be having children and I really want them to be brought up as Muslims with a positive and humble character, the way Islam truly teaches about. I would be upset if they decide to no longer accept Islam, this would mean my failure as a father. I want to choose the best for them when they’re growing up, so the best I could choose for them would be as Muslims - being pious, honest, and sincere and believers in Allah. This would benefit them in this life and the next. My success as a father would be when I make their faith strong in Allah and be good followers of Islam. I don’t want to force them to follow the religion, but my upbringing will be in such a manner where they will gladly accept Islam with all their heart and wouldn’t feel forced to accept it.
Will you force arrange marriages for your children?
S- S-No. I believe in love marriages. I hope to set a wonderful example for my children that you are free to love whom you chose. No matter their gender, race or religion. I do hope that they would respect my opinions but I will respect their choices because in the long run I want what is best for them.
M- Force arranged marriage is a strong term. I wouldn’t have them forced arrange marriages instead they will have the right to marry the person they love.
Will you be forced to stay home or will you be allowed to work and continue your education?
S- We’ve discussed this. I am allowed to work and go to classes if I choose too. I will be a stay at home mom after our children are born until they are older and I will return to work or classes if need be. I feel that I need to be at home when they are young.
M-I would never force S to stay home. She will have my complete consent to work and continue her education. Only when the children are very young, I would want her to take care of them and be home because that’s when a mother’s role comes in. Other than that, I wouldn’t mind if S wants to work and continue her education.
What about gender roles and household duties?
S- Ha. M has already told me he plans to help me so that I do not have to carry this burden by myself since I have carried it so long on my own. It’s going to take some getting used to because honestly I am so independent. I do long to take care of him and our household and I would get a great sense of satisfaction in doing so.
M- I’ll be very co-operative and helpful when it comes to the gender roles and household duties, I guess that’s just how I am. I really look forward to helping and giving her S* a hand with the household duties since she has carried it so long on her own and now I need to play my role being with her.
What about food?
S- We will have an intercultural diet from all corners of the world. We will have South Asian food at least every week and during common traditions. It depends on if I can get my hands on traditional food and spices as well. I know that not all South Asian food is spicy but I will set aside portions for the girls where I can adjust the heat level. M has already told me that he’s going to love my cooking be it good or bad. Ha. There’s no bad food in my house!
M- Food?! :D Well, since she loves cooking, I already know there’s not going to be a problem with the food. Yes we will have an intercultural diet, for sure. S will really get hands well on the traditional food and spices plus I have no problems whether it’s American food she cooks or just the traditional food of my culture, I never have to complain about the food, because I know she will do that for me with all her devotion so I would love it anyhow.
What about American holidays?
S- Of course we will follow them! It’s deeply rooted in my traditions and something I look forward teaching the girls. We will be also incorporating Muslim traditions and South Asian food. Actually I can’t wait to dress M up in Halloween costumes and send him out with the girls to go trick or treating! Hehe.
M- Why not? We would celebrate all American holidays as well as the Muslim traditional holidays. It will be fun and I wonder how I will look like dressed up in a Halloween costume lol It will be fun though J
What about an intergenerational house hold?
S- I have openly welcomed the idea of having his parents and siblings living with us. I think it would be great for everyone. Yes, the house hold may be hectic as far as amount of people in the house. But I think it will be quite some time before this happens and by then with future planning in mind, everything will work out.
M- I don’t think S will have a problem with that. We have discussed that already and I know she will take care of it very well. She’s very caring and understanding. But it’s not going to be any sooner, it will be a long time till my parents might wish to come and start living at our place, and we can accommodate them and I look forward to it. Even if S’s mom wishes to stay with us, I have no issues. I would be glad that she will be living with us.
What about his/her parents?
S- I am actually excited to meet Amme (mom) and Abbu (dad)! I can’t wait to be part of their family and be openly accepted as their beyTi (daughter). I can’t wait to taste Amme’s cooking and learn how to cook South Asian cooking and household duties from her! I know many Gori (white and or American) girlfriends and wives who do not look forward to this or even like it. Not I! I think I will love it. I am excited to meet Abbu because he sounds so smart and open to teaching me how the household should be run from a man’s view point and see how they treat each other. I think they provided a great role model for M because he has turned out so great!
M- I am happy to meet her parents. I look forward to meeting them and make them feel content that I will take care of their daughter and love her always and she wouldn’t suffer anything like her past. I want to be with her for the rest of her life, loving her, being the father of her children, taking care of her and being the best husband. I am pretty sure I will make her parents proud.
Will you be staying in the states?
S- Yes. I am by law forced to stay here due to custody reasons and I could not imagine changing that. We will be visiting M’s homeland when we can and when it’s safe to travel there. M has family in Texas, so I imagine we will be spending a lot of time down there. When we are older and the kids are grown and married, who knows.
M- Yes we will be living in the States that’s what I want too. We will visit my homeland sometimes if we plan to, but since I have much family in Texas too, so we will definitely be spending time over there on holidays.
What is one thing that makes you nervous about Muslim/American traditions?
M- I don’t know too much about American traditions, but there’s nothing I suppose that I will be nervous about when it comes to traditions as long as it doesn’t speak against my religion or devalues Islamic values and beliefs.
What is one thing you think you will have difficulty relationship wise in context of your cultural differences?
S- Conflict resolution in the beginning. I think there will be times where this will test our relationship. I am very forward and to the point. I typically will firmly make my point very loud and clear. I have realized through M that my “roughness” isn’t helpful. Ha. I blame it on my past because it wasn’t used as a resolution skill but more of a survival skill if you will. He is teaching me to be more gentle and calm with my words. I am adapting though because he respect me so much that he won’t retort with bad words or even in his tone of voice. He respects me so much out of love that the idea of just casually throwing words at him seems so impossible now.
M- I guess she already said it. I don’t know whether I should term it as a cultural difference, but I guess it’s more of a personality because I like to be polite and I like to be treated the same way. My anger, my emotions are always under my control if I realize it’s hurting the other person. I get over it instantly for the other person. S is very straight forward yet considerate and that’s her personality and I respect her for that. It’s better to be clear than being hideous and hiding feelings and keeping them in your heart because they come out in anger off and on and creates more complications. That’s why I find it good if she’s straightforward and tell me things honestly if she doesn’t like something I did, or what so ever. She is being gentle and polite with me and I know she is doing it for me, and I really love her for that! There’s nothing more I can ask for because I believe cruel words damage more than just actions themselves.
What is one thing that you didn’t expect to learn?
S- That even though there are deeply rooted stereotypes and racism, that there are open and loving people who accept you no matter what! I always was afraid of the stereotypes that were held against American women and especially divorced American women with children stereotypes. M threw all those stereotypes out the window because he loves me no matter what! His love for me will not be broken by anything! That my worth will never be devalued by what others think or say. I am so thankful for this!
M- It is how to treat an angry woman calmly and patiently J I learnt we need to give people some time if they need to get over their emotions when they are really upset about something.
How do you plan on teaching and protecting the girls form other’s ignorance when it comes to your relationship?
S- Well I don’t think you can protect them from life. I think I can teach them what is truly important in life and show them this through my actions. They know that your skin color, religion, income, culture and gender is all the same when it comes to human rights. No one is better or less. All are equals. I will also teach them kindness and knowledge when it comes to them hearing and seeing stereotypes and racism. I can’t protect them from heartaches of life but I can at least lessen the blows and heal their wounds but my love and my actions.
M- I will be very careful in telling them things that will always keep them neutral so they can speak for themselves and for the right if people show ignorance towards them. They will be the speakers instead of listeners. They will know the right things they should know. I will do anything to protect them from other people’s ignorance and even from the heartaches as much as I can. S and I have seen life; we can share our experience and minimize the troubles that may come their way, so the girls can turn them away before it strikes them. Of course to some extent, they will learn from their mistakes too, but I believe it’s one of the responsibilities of the parents too to protect their children from difficulties by restricting them initially from things which they might think look attractive and beneficial for them but actually they are not, and I will not let them suffer, I will sit and make them understand but if they insist persistently, I will let them go thru it so they will realize parents’ have much experience they can learn from.
What is something that you are not looking forward too?
M- I agree with S completely. People’s ignorance will always be there, but I too hope that someday they might realize how stronger our love and bond is, and eventually they could get over it. Another thing that I don’t look forward to would be people’s discrimination. It would somewhat hurt me to go through it. I wouldn’t appreciate if people discriminate when it comes to treating our biological children because they should be like all other children – the way they should be treated.
What is something that you look forward too?
S- Well there are several things I look forward too. But the most prominent one is spend the rest of my life with M. It motivates me so much and I know that motivation will be continuing because I cannot picture a day without M in my life.
M- The only thing I look forward to is to get over unworthy conflicts and misunderstandings and things which would create distance b/w us. We just need to understand each other more and let go things that will only make us feel bad and upset. I always like to quickly get over conflicts and try to make things simpler and easier for both of us because our love is the root to this relationship and it must be strong no matter what. We have a long way to go if we stand by each other firmly. Last but not the least, can’t wait to be around my wifey any longer.
If you had to give someone one tip on intercultural relationship what would it be?
S- Well first and foremost, if you love someone nothing else will matter but what is in their heart. Secondly, you are your own being. You are in control of what you think and what you feel. No one else has the right to sway your feelings or make you feel a certain way. Love truly cannot be contained by what a group of people think is right for you. If you love someone, love them with all your heart. When you do nothing else matters.
M- I would write the same thing down here that S did. Agreed 100% with it J