Muslims in America represent different ethnic and racial bases, and this has led to an increase in intercultural and interfaith marriages. Despite taboos among parents in a Muslim community who marry an “outside” of their race, culture or religion, there is a tendency for young couples to marry based solely on religion, without regard to culture or race, and yet other couples who decide marry a spouse of another religion. These types of marriages can have stresses and strains higher than those experienced in most marriages, because they have “built-in” differences in areas that are particularly sensitive to families of origin, and sometimes require additional effort from a couple of creating bridges to create a strong and lasting marriage,
Of course, all couples, whether on the same background or not, will face differences in their marriage. Individuals come from different “family cultures”, where roles and expectations are inherited, and then transferred to their own marriage dynamics. Couples who were raised in the West may have similar cultural values, even if their families of origin come from different cultures. Therefore, all couples must learn to manage and resolve their differences in marriage, even if they have the same cultural and religious nature. However, when relationships are interfaith and / or intercultural, couples must learn to be active, as the differences in their relationship may be wider as a result of their various inherited values.
Studies have shown that the three main areas have added problems to intercultural and interfaith marriages. These three areas are: (1) communication styles, (2) extended family relationships, and (3) parenting practices.
1) Language of communication
A couple from different cultural backgrounds may face additional problems when communicating and listening to each other. This is not necessarily because they do not speak the same language, but rather because cultures tend to influence manner in which people express themselves. Depending on the upbringing, people will differ in how loud and fast they communicate, even if the husband and wife communicate in English. In addition, each person’s culture has shaped how he or she reasons, teases, jokes, and listens, as well as the characteristics and body language they use. Therefore, misunderstandings in communication due to different language barriers or cultural nuances can cause conflict in marriages.
The couple must learn to be sensitive to the style of communication of their partner, as well as to understand the impact of their upbringing on how they communicate the message. As soon as the couple effectively learns the partner's “language of communication”, they will be able to reduce conflicts in this area.
2) Statutes / extended families
Sometimes interreligious and intercultural problems manifest themselves in the early stages of relationships, often arising in the process of planning a wedding and continuing as long as relatives are around. These differences may include the expectations of the couple’s family of origin about the wedding ceremony or even influence the decisions. Couples may have different views regarding the role of their extended family in their marriage. Cultural values may dictate that relatives in the law should have a say in every decision relating to a wedding, or a couple may expect him to spend a certain amount of time with his relatives when they are married. On the other hand, relatives in the law can be so deeply committed to their cultural identity that they cannot appreciate how their adult child adapted to the culture of the spouse; therefore, they may limit contact with a “foreign family” or never warm up a spouse. when in laws avoiding a new couple for personal reasonsThis can cause stress for marriage and family. In addition, when a couple has children, they will need to identify the relationships that relatives have with their grandchildren, and consider broader cultural or religious values in their interaction with the extended family.
Parenting practices can also lead to friction for an intercultural or interfaith couple in making religious, educational or cultural decisions for their children. As a rule, most couples are surprised to learn that when they become parents, each of them has different ideas about how parents are. However, when a couple added their diverse cultural or religious values, they may find very different ideas about how they feel that their children should behave and be brought up.
Areas such as “mother tongue” or primary language that children will learn, which holidays will be celebrated, and how faith will be passed on to the child should be discussed before children or even before marriage to reduce potential conflicts in the marriage. In addition, disciplines, expectations of appropriate gender behavior and teaching children are very culturally produced, therefore couples must compromise and determine that their own family vision will occur when they have children. Conflicts can arise if a spouse feels that their culture or religion is devalued, or one spouse does not respect their heritage and does not share mutual respect for their family background. Raising children with appreciation for two cultures and two religions can be enriched, but this can happen only if couples exchange their ideas and values with each other.
Problems and conflicts in intercultural and interfaith marriages often arise from the assumptions and expectations that arise for an individual and a couple. These expectations flow into the personality of a person through their life experience and family background. People preparing for marriage usually do not even realize their unrealistic expectations and any possible conflicts that may arise in a marriage due to their culture or religion. Before a couple can decide how their beliefs and values will come into contact with each other, they must individually examine their core beliefs and values in order to recognize their identity. Once a person realizes what is most important for them personally, they will be able to communicate with their spouse, what type of family they intend to raise their children and better compromise their cultural and religious experience in order to enrich their family life.
Dr. Joel Kron explains in his book Mixed matches: how to create successful interracial, inter-ethnic and interfaith relations The five main models for managing cultural, racial, and religious differences in intercultural and interfaith couples will pass through any of these models, as they establish their family vision:
1) Transcendental: The couple accepts beliefs, traditions and rituals from various sources, including those outside the cultures, races and religions of their origin. Spiritual practices of couples may be unconventional. This picture usually meets a couple who have not been brought up with any strong religious or cultural base, and therefore they seek to create their own. This picture is not typical for Muslim families, as they have different religious and / or cultural values with which they marry and learn to compromise.
2) Secular: The couple adopts a non-religious approach to life and is minimally involved in the practice of cultural and religious beliefs, rituals and traditions. This picture is manifested in Muslim families and may arise from spouses who do not have strong ties to their religious past and may have weak ties to their cultural past. Such an approach does not contribute to the development of a culture or religion within the framework of family practices and child-rearing.
3) Bi-cultural: The couple tries to balance beliefs, traditions, and rituals from the cultural, religious, and racial origins of each partner. If there are two languages, children will probably speak both. This model is common in many Muslim families, as they strive to include both cultures and instill the language, food, clothing, and traditions of both cultures in their children. The couple appreciates and celebrates the legacy of the spouse. Within this model, it can be difficult for families to balance both cultures and to make the same emphasis on both cultures indistinguishable.
4) Modified Bi-Cultural: Couples accept a single religion, either against the background of one of the partners, or to a mutually acceptable “compromised” religion, and tries to respect the beliefs and traditions of both partners in a selective but relatively balanced way. If there are two languages, children can or cannot speak both. This picture is most common in Muslim families, where the child is brought up with the Islamic faith and a couple of compromises regarding the cultural traditions that the family accepts with mutual respect for their family heritage and traditions and openness to creating new traditions. The balance to which the couple seeks is practical in this regard, as it encourages couples to compromise in the development of their family traditions, while respect for culture is maintained.
5) assimilates: One partner assimilates and appeals to the beliefs, traditions and rituals of the cultural, religious and racial background of the other partner. This picture can also be seen in many Muslim families, where one spouse gives his religious or cultural background and fully accepts the traditions of his spouses. In the case of a spouse who converted to Islam, there is also a long-term departure from their cultural background, regarding him as “non-Islamic”, rather than accepting positive cultural traditions in their family traditions. Other couples completely deny the culture of one spouse and accept the dominant culture in their family traditions through food, clothing and celebrations. This template requires a small compromise and does not have the concept of mutual respect for the heritage of each spouse and does not give children the opportunity to celebrate both cultures of their parents.
All couples, despite cultural and religious beliefs, will discuss differences in marriage. This is due to the fact that two people come from two different families, and as a couple they will develop their own family identity, choosing traditions, habits and beliefs that they value and want to celebrate in their family and with their children. The process of forming a family is more complicated for couples of different cultures and religions. Nevertheless, despite these complex problems, successful intercultural and interfaith relations have many personal advantages. Couples who want to manage differences with each other and their families generally encourage communities that have a more integrated identity and a higher appreciation of diversity.
As Allah declares,
“About humanity. Indeed, we created you from men and women and turned you into peoples and tribes, so that you would know [become acquainted with, recognize] each other … ”(Quran, 49:13)
However, this process does not occur automatically; A successful and varied marriage requires personal work and sensitivity to oneself and others. Then the rewards are immeasurable.
Intercultural and interfaith marriages Last modified: July 30, 2018 from