"I love her, but we can’t be together."
I must have heard this statement over a hundred times in my short but nonetheless significant life span, and not once did the pang of disappoint lessen. “We come from different religious backgrounds”, they tell me, “it couldn’t possibly work”. Religion was almost always the reason, and I was almost always mortified. Drenched with fury. The matter is irony itself. Religion, the supposed embodiment of God’s will for peace and love on earth, is the reason people cannot be in love. How lovely.
Couples in inter-faith relationships are champions, to say the least. They go through all this unnecessary familial and societal pressure and master the art of pretending it doesn’t exist. They live for the sole purpose of the present moment. We are together today, the rest will worry about itself, tomorrow. Then wedding season comes along, and awkward conversations are avoided at all costs. Discussing future children’s names feels like a little stroke rather than a blessing. Then you’re thinking, will god bless our marriage, and if so, whose god will it be?
Yes, a fairy tale with a touch of Horror story, is exactly what this is.
Inter-religious love or inter-faith relationships are sometimes considered signs of societal progress in different parts of the world. They are a clear indication that people are more tolerant, and that they are leading more secular lives (Civil marriage is probably the best thing that ever happened to our world, but that’s just my opinion). Other times, such relationships are considered to be a threat to the strength and unity of religious communities, and that they are signs of cultural eradication (what?!?!). It is thought that people from completely different backgrounds couldn’t possibly share a life, let alone raise a family. The suggestion here is that their children will have a hint of schizophrenia, not knowing what to like more, Jallab, matte or Santa-Clause-shaped chocolates. Priorities, you know?
The very simple idea I propose here is that couples can constitute the perfect match, or not at all, despite of religion. Religions don’t fall in love. People do. And people are complex socially constructed creatures. They are layered, flawed and beautiful. They are caring, forgiving and tolerant.. But they are also monstrous and selfish. They are sometimes swallowed up by the temptation of easier alternatives. They are swayed by parental pressure and communal acceptance. They are afraid of rejection, because they live their whole lives trying to fit in… and I have come to understand that it’s okay. We should all understand. We should understand that the battles they fight everyday are horrendously difficult, that they are heart wrenching and painful, that their loss in love is more agonizing than most, because it’s not merely loss, it’s also surrender. So before you shove the “I told you so” down their throats, I suggest you take a moment and think of the great things they’ve done.
It’s okay to fail, love’s usual destiny is failure anyway. How can something so good persist in a world so at fault? Their efforts don’t celebrate the atheists of our world, nor the rebels. Their efforts are instead a reminder of our humanity in its purest of forms, long before we become contaminated with man made systems, “religious norms and regulations” being no exception. I write this to salute those who try, knowing they might fail. To those who have already tried and failed. But I write this especially to all of those who managed to find a compromise and who won’t take no for an answer.
You make our spiteful world a kinder place.