Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Keeping One's Own Religion

Wondering wrote a comment asking if it was possible to "marry a very strong muslim man from Egypt and not be muslim and not want to be muslim". I would say with some qualifications that of course it is possible. I've known women married to Muslims who were not Muslim. What are the qualifications then? First, how central is religion to your lives? Are you both tolerant of each other's religion and religious beliefs? If you are not tolerant, I would say that the experiment is pretty much doomed. And tolerance doesn't just mean a passive tolerance. Is the Muslim partner going to be bothered by celebrations of Christmas and Easter, assuming that the other partner is Christian, there is going to be considerable stress at least twice a year.

And then there is the issue of what religion, if any, the children of such a union are introduced to. Do you give them both and let them choose? For most Egyptian families, this idea is horrifying and there would be considerable pressure on the man to have the children raised as Muslims.

Similarly, a major consideration should also be for where this marriage is going to be enjoyed. If the couple is living in North America or Europe, then the laws of the country will determine the rights of the wife in cases of divorce or widowhood. If, however, the couple is living in Egypt, then the legal situation does have to be considered. A Christian wife of a Muslim man has no legal rights of inheritance in Egypt. The laws governing inheritance are outlined for Christians and for Muslims and they are different. There is no allowance for mixed marriage under the law.

In my mind, religion is a very personal thing, just like taste in music, belief in fairies, or which side of the bed you have to sleep on. Theoretically, mixing two very different personal beliefs should be possible, but you can't forget the nasty facts of law and family pressures. These things can make all the difference.

Best of luck

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