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Old 12-22-2003, 11:37 PM   #1 (permalink)
hiredgun's Avatar
Love, Religion, and Family. Please Help Me.

I need help. I've never before been this torn or confused in my young life. The situation will probably take a lot of explaining, so bear with me, please.

I am 18. I was born in Karachi, Pakistan but my family moved almost immediately and I grew up here in the US. My parents are pretty strict Muslims and they raised me as one too. The pertinent issue is that any relation between men and women that goes beyond casual acquaintance is forbidden. While I grew up immersed in Western culture (via school, friends), I was always taught at home that dating was wrong. For a time (I don't really know or remember how long), I believed this.

Originally, what this meant for me was that my parents would arrange my marriage to someone with my consent, as theirs had been arranged. Later, they loosened up a little bit and seemed to decide that I could find some nice girl on my own. Still, this didn't mean dating, but seemed to imply finding a nice girl somewhere that I got along with and the two of us simply deciding to marry each other. The assumption here is that she would be Muslim and from a similar background, but my parents would (reluctantly) accept a marriage to someone of another faith; it's just that the circumstances seem stacked against this happening.

I have a girlfriend. Her name is Emily and she is white and protestant christian. We met in high school and now go to colleges that are hundreds of miles apart, but both of us have handled the distance fine. She is definitely the most loving, caring, and generally amazing person I have ever met, and I am completely in love with her.

As was inevitable, a few days ago our relationship was finally discovered by my family. I hid it from my family because I didn't want to hurt them, but my sister, a high school freshman, found out (how she did is irrelevant) and although she was born and raised here, she totally flipped out at me. She said all sorts of shit, made a huge scene in our house, and eventually my mother came to investigate. I got a look from my sister then that basically said, "Tell her, or I will." So I told her.

I expected her to be angry and flip out like my sister. A small hopeful part of me expected her to be understanding. Instead she has been extremely depressed ever since. She broke down into tears, and has been begging me repeatedly to break off my relationship with Emily. My mother hasn't been eating enough, and has felt sick. From the bags under her eyes, it looks like she hasn't been sleeping. She doesn't hate me, hasn't stopped talking to me or anything; but her plea is continuous and inflexible; I am sinning and she demands that I stop.

She hasn't told my father, and told me not to tell him either. She says that he might flip out, and do something terrible. Kick me out of the house, or stop paying my tuition, or something. I'm not so sure about that. I sort of think he might be understanding, but that's what I thought about my sister, and she flipped out.

I have no idea what to do. I love my family. They have made enormous sacrifices for me. My parents are great people; while they have been strict sometimes, they always think of myself and my sister before themselves. They've taught me always to do what is right, and I have always strived to do so.

But I can't help but think that my mother doesn't appreciate me. I think I'm pretty close to a model son. I don't smoke or drink, or do any drugs. I'm always responsible about coming home on time, letting them know where I am, etc. I have always done well academically, and I'm making A's at Georgetown. I fail to see how my parents can even see this relationship as a bad thing; we're not having sex (and don't plan to do so anytime soon), and being long-distance, it's obviously not just physical. Emily is an amazing person, and above all a good person. None of this seems to matter, the bottom line just seems to be that I am violating Quranic law (at least according to my parents, and most Islamic jurists.) I am not permitted to kiss her, even to hold her hand or speak words of affection. I can not, do not believe that what I'm doing is wrong, but my parents do.

I don't know if I can (or even should) give in to make my family happy. I might regret it forever. I might regret not giving in. I don't know. How can I make my parents understand where I'm coming from? How can I make my mother come to grips with the fact that I might have different beliefs from her, despite what she taught me? She has wept uncontrollably on my shoulder and begged me to stop sinning. She has invoked her many sacrifices on my behalf and pleaded that I give up this one "sin" for my family's sake. I can't bear to see her suffer. I feel as if she's inflicting it on herself through her beliefs, but that doesn't change the fact that I have the ability to put an end to it. What should I do?

If you've read this far down, thank you. Venting this whole story out has given me some small measure of comfort in itself. I apologize if it's a little disjointed or rambling, I'm pretty upset and I'm not going back up to proofread it. I only hope that maybe some of you can advise me.
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Old 12-23-2003, 01:26 AM   #2 (permalink)
Comment or else!!
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Location: Home sweet home
wow...you are in a tight spot there....

Did your parents get to know Emily? Maybe getting them to know Emily might shake their view a little.
My mom use to think that all Cambodians are bad and she tells me to stay away from them, but nevertheless i didn't, in fact most of my friends are. Anways, many a times i bought my cambodian friends home to hang out, and i would talk a lot of good things about them once they leave, like how they got straight A's and do volunteer work and even helping me with home work, eventually she began to see things differently and accepts me hanging out with them.

(because of where i live, there are a lot of asian "thugs" and most of them are cabodians, thats why my mom thinks ill of them)

I hope that helped a little. best of luck to you

Him: Ok, I have to ask, what do you believe?
Me: Shit happens.
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Old 12-23-2003, 01:30 AM   #3 (permalink)
big damn hero
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The decision lies ultimately in your hands. You must never forget this. While I sympathize with trying to appease your mother, I feel it's important to note that you are not responsible for your mother's happiness. This may sound selfish, but you cannot let your mother influence your decision; you must do what is right for you and you alone. Your mother's happiness lies in her own hands, not yours.

It sounds like you really love this girl, Emily. It sounds like you are looking to find a life with her. That's wonderful. I've gathered from your writing that she makes you happy.

I guess the question here is whose happiness are you willing to sacrifice? Are you willing to forsake your mother's happiness and stay with Emily? Are you willing to forsake your own happiness and give her up?

All that being said, the only person in this world that you have to please is yourself. I know that sounds selfish, but hear me out. You are the one who will have to live with your decision, not Emily and certainly not your family. I understand the need for harmony and peace in the family, but will your happiness be the sacrifice for that harmony?

It is a pickle, no doubt about it. I think, in the end, you have to do what is right for you, not because you're trying to live up to someone's expectations to please them.

But hey, what do I know? I'm just some dope on the InterWeb thingy

I know I wasn't much help, but I wish you luck
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Old 12-23-2003, 02:00 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Chicago
The first thing I said after reading this was "Wow...this is....impossible." And I stand by that.

There is no "good" solution to this problem. You must understand that. There is no way to make everyone happy here. SOMEONE will be hurt.

All I can do is tell you how much I agree with the previous poster. It's YOUR decision to make. I'm sure it hurts to see your mother feeling such sadness, but it's not your responsibility to make her happy. It is, first and foremost, your responsibility to make YOURSELF happy, so long as it is in a just manner. And from what I gather, you don't believe your relationship with Emily is unjust and, therefore, you have nothing to be ashamed about with it. Even if it causes your mother to be unhappy.

I'm going to be honest and tell you, I'm not so sure your mother is capable of ever moving on from this if you choose to stay with Emily. When it's such a fundamental belief as to be part of her religion and to effect her this much, chances are that she will never come completely to terms with it. But she may grow to tolerate it more over time. Nonetheless, you should do what's best for YOU. And if staying with Emily is what you feel is best for your happiness, then I think that's the right choice. Just be prepared that there are consequences no matter what you choose.

And good luck, I'm sure this is an EXTREMELY hard position to be in.
Le temps détruit tout

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Old 12-23-2003, 06:58 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Manhattan, NY
I made it very clear to my parents as a youngster that I was NOT going to marry within the culture. It was NOT a possibility because I did not find Asian women attractive. My parents did not raise me as strict as your parents, but I do think that my own openness and communication to the situation was the key in making it work.

It will be hard, it will be uncomfortable. They want their traditions to stay intact. Figure out how important they are to YOUR life and how they fit into YOUR future family. Ultimately, it's up to you. I'd do anything that my mama asks of me except for those things that I've drawn the line. It sounds like you need to find where it is for you and your family.

Don't worry you'll get there, it may take a few years, but you'll get there over time.
I don't care if you are black, white, purple, green, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, hippie, cop, bum, admin, user, English, Irish, French, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, indian, cowboy, tall, short, fat, skinny, emo, punk, mod, rocker, straight, gay, lesbian, jock, nerd, geek, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, driver, pedestrian, or bicyclist, either you're an asshole or you're not.
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Old 12-23-2003, 08:13 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: east of the sun and west of the moon
Whew, what a mess!

I think a lot of first-generation immigre kids find themselves in this position: torn between their parent's desire to hold to traditions, and their own instincts that new ideas and new ways of being and behaving can be good.

There are a couple of issues here, and ultimately, as others have said, the final decision is yours.

Coming from an outside, secular perspective, I think your parents' desires for you to stay in your own culture are driven more by fear than anything else. How can love be a sin? Every culture is afraid of change. Most individuals are afraid of change. The problem is when this fear of the other gets codified into a social institution, like religion. I think sometimes simple exposure to that which you're afraid of can help, but I'm not sure this will work in your parents' case - they seem pretty entrenched in their beliefs, and I'm not sure that getting to know Emily will really help. It might, but it seems like they are pretty set in their ways.

The bottom line is: what do you feel is right? Do you see your parents' views as prejudice, or as a legitimate concern for your spiritual well-being? If you broke up with Emily, would it be because you really do accept your parents' values, or would it be just to appease them? In the end you have to be true to yourself. But you also have to be prepared for the consequences of your actions. A lot of people have to deal with this (finding your own path regardless of your parents' wishes, and sometimes in direct opposition to their wishes), regardless of culture or religion. It could be that someone's dad really wanted them to be a doctor, but their path is as an artist. Or someone's parents really want them to have children. Or someone turns out to be gay and their parents are homophobic. I guess what I'm saying is that you're not alone. A lot of people have to negotiate these waters, and it can be done if you're extremely honest with yourself about what you want, and what it's going to cost you to get it.

Best of luck, my friend.
"If ten million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing."

- Anatole France
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Old 12-23-2003, 08:45 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: Upper Michigan
My parents are strict protestant Christian and for me to date anyone of any other belief would have been devastating for them. I married within our religion. My brother did not. It created a great deal of upset and my father even attempted suicide due to his unstable mental situation and the stress of his son "sinning". Note: I'm not saying your mother is unstable at all it's just a part of being so indoctrinated in the religion in her case I believe. My family's church even sent a couple people to my brother's house to lecture him on this sin he was committing. My brother ended up with a very small wedding he and his wife paid for it themselves. Very few family came. I did attend even though I had a migrane that day from other reasons. I wanted to show him that I supported him despite criticism that he'd received from others. Our parents did attend the wedding because in their eyes they didn't want to miss their son's wedding even though they didn't approve. Our parents have reconciled to the marriage and have not ostracised him. They don't give him a lot of support financially or anything but it was his choice and he is responsible.

You are the one who has to live your life. You are not responsible for your parents emotions. You are responsible for your life and if you choose to continue to be with this girl you should be prepared to be responsible for this life you have chosen. Meaning if you need tuition - try to find other ways of getting it. Scholarships, grants, loans, and plain old work. It may take you longer to get through college but if good ol' Dad won't help you because of your decision then you can still do it. You don't have to just please them. All children disappoint their parents sometime or other. Parents can handle it.

I do understand the guilt you would feel over this. I have avoided doing things in my life simply because my parents disapproved. I regret that I have not pursued my own life. My parents aren't involved in things very much now. I talk to them regularly but they don't live here in my home, with my family and with the results of my decisions. The guilt will pass and you will be the only one living with the results of your decisions. This girl sounds worth the temporary upset in your family. Just be prepared to be responsible for your own livlihood and college education. Isn't it worth the extra effort?

Good Luck.
"Always learn the rules so that you can break them properly." Dalai Lama
My Karma just ran over your Dogma.
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Old 12-23-2003, 11:11 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Life is a learning experience, and it is up to the individual living it to get the most out of it. Pain and failure are by far better teachers than happiness and boredom. While the situation may seem extremely difficult (and it is), that should not keep your soul from growing in the direction you are drawn.
Your parents need to grow, just as you do. Perhaps this is an opportunity rather than a trial, it is usually all in the perspective with which you chose to view a situation. If you decide to avoid the pain your life will inflict apon you, spiritual and emotional growth will be greatly diminished. Seems to me you and Emily have a joint decision to make as you are tied together already, and will be increasingly so in the future....depending on your next actions.
may all the Gods bless your future
Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned. - Buddha
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Old 12-23-2003, 11:55 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Location: Northern VA
My parents are from Karachi too. I was born here, and they are pretty religous as well, (I'm not really that religious). But they know I have a girlfriend...that is Catholic....and they love her. Hell...sometimes I think they give her better gifts for her birthday and what not than they give me.
I think your parents two main concerns are probably pre-marital sex, and if you do end up getting married, what will your kids be (religiously speaking). I know that is what my parents concerns are.
You gotta try and try and try to talk to them about it. That may be the only way they will understand. If they don't...then like everyone else says....its all up to you.
PM me if you want, and we can talk about it more since I have an idea of what you are going through.
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Old 12-23-2003, 12:49 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Location: Shirt and Pants (NJ)
I dont see how love can be a sin. Religion tends to lean toward love as the opposite of sin.

You should let them know how you feel about this girl. If you do really love her, as you say, they should understand this. Its not like you're dating 5 girls a month and fucking anything that spreads it's legs. You are commited to this girl and truely care about her.

Ask them if they would prefer you in a loveless marriage, or one born out of love. Ask if they want grandchildren that are the result of simple procreation or grandchildren that are born out of love. If they dont understand this then there may be little hope.

You're trying your best to do what is right, but you have to live your own life. It is YOUR LIFE. It is not your mother's life. It is not your father's life. It is not your sister's life. It is your life. Live and love and as you wish.
We Must Dissent.
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Old 12-23-2003, 01:17 PM   #11 (permalink)
Observant Ruminant
Location: Rich Wannabe Hippie Town
I was going to attempt to say something helpful, but raeanna74 said it all ten times better than I ever could, speaking from experience and from the heart.

In the end, it's all up to you.

Last edited by Rodney; 12-23-2003 at 01:19 PM..
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Old 12-23-2003, 01:41 PM   #12 (permalink)
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A parent's job is to support his/her child in whatever the child wants to do as long as it's not illegal or immoral. Too many parents use what would make them happy as a basis to decide what would make their kid happy. They then proceed to make the kid miserable because the kid doesn't want to do what the parent would do if the parent were in the kid's position.

In this case, you've found what appears to be a wonderful woman who makes you happy and who is a positive influence in your life. Due to a very petty reason, your mother wants to separate you two.

On the other hand, you must look at it from your parents' perspective. They're obviously very firm believers in their faith, and their faith teaches that muslims should marry other muslims. You're not doing that, so naturally they're going to have a good deal of conflict.

Now that that's been said, let's get real here. If they didn't want you to find a non-muslim girl to marry, perhaps they should have stayed where there are a lot more muslims to choose from. If you're insistant on thinking other religions are inferior or are sinners because they're not your religion, why the hell would you move to a country where the ratio of your religion to other religions is so small?

Some people want it both ways. They want to move to the U.S. because they get significant economic and quality-of-life improvements over the country they came from, yet they then proceed to look down upon Western culture. I'm not saying give up your religion, but I am saying that if you want to reap the benifits that you get from a country founded and populated by "sinners," then you shouldn't be too upset when your relatives have relations with the sinners, ya know?

Short answer? Marry the girl. Your parents will either get over it or they won't, but your primary responsibility is to run YOUR life, not to let others run it for you.
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Old 12-24-2003, 12:34 AM   #13 (permalink)
*sigh*....holy shit....

It's been said several times, but i'll say it again my own way.

You are in charge of your life.
You are not in charge of your parents' happiness.
You WILL have to deal with the consequences of living your life over making your parents happy, but it is something you MUST do.
You cannot live the life your parents want you to live. That is not living.
You will have love, and compassion, and follow your heart, and maybe have an upset family, or you will have a happy family and no love.

So many people never find that true love. Don't turn your back on it.

Best of luck...
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Old 12-24-2003, 11:34 AM   #14 (permalink)
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Thank you all very much for your responses so far. I've been continuing to speak with my mom about it as patiently as I can. I know she won't change overnight but I hope she will come to understand me soon enough.

Just to clarify one thing: the main issue with my parents is not necessarily that I might marry an "outsider", but the fact that I have a girlfriend at all. Since we aren't legally bound to each other by marriage, our relationship is considered a sin.

Marrying her would have its own concerns, but my parents would probably much prefer it. The thing is, I'm only 18. While I am thinking about marrying her eventually, I don't think I'm ready to get married yet. Until I am married to her, she is off-limits. The paradoxical impossibility of this setup doesn't seem to occur to my parents.

Thanks again for the advice and support.
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Old 12-24-2003, 02:14 PM   #15 (permalink)
Location: Somewhere between Arborea and Bytopia
I wouldn't suggest hiding the relationship from your father for too long. If the rest of the family knows, he's going to find out eventually, and it would probably be better for him to hear it from you.

You're probably not going to be able to change your mother's religious views by directly pointing out the flaws or paradoxes in them. Instead, try to find out what she's really worried will happen if you stay with Emily. Is it only the thought that you haven't followed Quranic law perfectly that is depressing her, or is there more to it than that? If you can deal with those concerns directly, there's a better chance that she'll slowly come to understand there's no need to be so strict.

My own example: I didn't start dating till I was 17, and at first it caused a lot of conflict with my parents. They're not as religious as yours, but they're very insular and anti-Western-culture. So they acted really cold and hostile to my boyfriend and while they never told me to my face to break up with him, it was obvious they wanted me to. But the real problem was they felt like they were losing me to the world. I think it can be hard for parents to realize that their kids aren't just little versions of themselves, that part of their kids growing up is letting them find their own values. So the thing that has helped most to heal my relationship with my parents are making sure they're still involved in my life, even though my life isn't really what they'd have wanted it to be.
"Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind." -Emerson
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Old 12-24-2003, 07:13 PM   #16 (permalink)
do you live on campus if so hell move in some were near school

really its your life not your parents if they wont let you date then its there problem dont let gulit affect your choices

make it clear to them were you stand

but they must respect the fact that your a adult now you will only be living with them for a few more year and if they wont let you date its time to say bye
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