Secrecy Is Isolating

Yesterday, I was listening to one of the many podcasts I subscribe, when one of the contributors had this to say:

“Secrecy, is isolating.  What if you couldn’t find anybody to talk with or good resources to explore, before taking the jump?” 

Now, the podcast was on a completely different topic, but this statement resounded with me.  What if you had someone in a relationship like yours that you could have talked to before getting married?

I remember after getting engaged, searching for books, magazine articles, movies, websites on marriages between Middle Eastern (Arabic/Egyptian,Muslim) men and American (Caucasian, Christian) women.  You know what I found?  “Not Without My Daughter” and about 50 Silhouette romance novels.  I watched, and read and was entertained, but those things had nothing worthy to contribute to my life. 

 Jump ahead to 2009, and I did another search, trying to find resources in general about raising children in an Islamic home.   I found quite a few resources that teach general aspects about the religion, even a few that were readable (and not full of APA style quotations), a few documentaries about Islam itself, and a lot of websites where women bitched and complained about how they were hosed over or how they were trying to convert their husbands to Christianity.

I’m not saying that there haven’t been women taken for a ride, but that happens in every culture, and in every religion and in every nation of the world.  But why is that the only message that we hear about?  Because when you are wronged, whether it is in the restaurant, the car dealer, the contractor that works on your house, or the man you believed would love you ’til death you do part,’ you go far and wide to make sure that you complain to everyone, so it doesn’t happen to someone else. 

What about when it goes right?  What about when you are happy?  What about when you are quietly living your life, day-to-day, raising your family the best way you know how?  You stay quiet.  Why?  Because it’s not that interesting.  Drama is interesting.  You don’t want to jinx it, you don’t want the dreaded evil eye to come and wreak havoc on your life.  Who would want to read about that?

When we stay quiet, we don’t support our sisters.  We let them go in blind and afraid.  Scared that they might get blind sided.  Scared that their in-laws will hate them because they aren’t Arabic/Muslim.  Scared that the man they have fallen in love with will turn out to be a stranger 6 months into their marriage.  Scared that they are making a huge mistake, marrying someone so different, when it would be so much easier to marry someone who is more like them.   We search out people in relationships like ours, but the pickings are sparse.  Our friends are married, but the cultural issues are not something easily explained or shared. 

When we don’t talk about what’s going on in our lives, we become isolated and lonely, thinking we are the only ones going through these challenges.   When we get married, we are counseled to talk it out, and when we have postpartum depression, we are told to share, tell another person.  Time and time again, it has been proven to work and to help.  People work out their issues, depression is healed and we are not alone.  

I want to talk about being happily married to a Muslim man, living an Islamic lifestyle.   It’s been challenging and rewarding.  I’ve learned a lot and I keep on learning every day.  I chose the road less traveled, and it’s an amazing journey.  You are not alone and I am not alone.  Let’s get some coffee.

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  • Crystal

    I was raised in a home with a mother who was raised by Mexicon non-English speaking devout Catholics in a Texas border city and father who was born in New York City and raised Jewish. My mother was entirely more religious than my father so we were raised as Catholics, but my siblings were always aware of, educated on, and celebrated our Jewish heritage. I grew up in a border city that is predominantly Hispanic and Catholic. Although we were raised Catholic, my siblings did not look like everyone else and our family was certainly not like everyone elses. Our Jewish last name was enough to tip everyone off that we were different.

    Although I can’t relate to raising muslim children as a Christian mother, the point of my comment is to tell you my upbringing in a a multi-ethnic and multi-religious home in a strange bubble of a border city was at times a bit difficult but was incredibly enriching and something that I am very proud of. Your children’s life will be more colorful and more enriched by the melting pot of a family they are a part of.

  • I’m here via Emily L. Hauser’s blog and wanted to say hello. I’m looking forward to reading your blog, and I want to thank you for writing.

  • ::facepalm::

    I’m here via Ask Moxie, not Emily Hauser. Sorry! They’re both blogs I’ve recently added to my aggregator, and I got them tangled in my mind for a minute there.

  • z

    I found your blog by way of Moxie. I am a Muslim who wasn’t brought up with a very strong Islamic identity (primarily b/c I was raised in a Muslim country) but also b/c my family wasn’t religious. Now that I have my own kids I too am always trying to find ways to develop and Islamic house and way of life so that they have a stronger faith. I am really intrigued by your blog and am looking forward to reading it.

    • z

      Wa Alaikum As-Salaam. Thank you for your suggestion about the Halaka. Insha Allah I will look into that. I think that would be a very good place for me to start to start adding things into our life. We are part of a Muslim mom’s group and so while the emphasis of our group is not religious discussions we do share in the traditions and so it’s nice to have people to bounce ideas off about Ramadan and Eid.

      • Z, It’s wonderful that you have Muslim sisters to meet with on a regular basis. I remember when I first started attending Halaka, it was very stressful because I did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable or offended. But now, even though I do not feel led to convert (or revert as some say) these women are my sisters and I can vent to them and seek their counsel when I have a problem. Also, through the lessons that I bring home, my husband is re-learning his own religion. Please share with us any traditions or Ramadan and Eid activities you enjoy, and if you are successful in finding a Halaka that fits your needs.

  • Crystal, Thank you for sharing about your childhood. One of the things that surprised me the most when searching for resources in navigating this life of mine was that there were a ton of books on how to raise your child in a Jewish/Christian home. I guess they’ve been mixing and writing about it a lot longer. I’m sure it’s never an easy thing to do even with the guidelines. Thank you for your voice of encouragement. We don’t live in an extremely metropolitan area, but we do have a multitude of friends of different faith and culture. It’s an exciting thing.

  • Welcome Rachel. I’m glad to have you here and I hope you enjoy reading and feel led to comment from time to time.

  • Z, Welcome! Assalamu Alaikum. I’m so glad to have you as a reader. I would encourage you to check into your local Islamic Community Center or Masjid and see if there is a Halaka that would work for you. I have been attending a Halaka at our Masjid for about 4 years now and it’s a wonderful way to learn more about the religion, as well as have moral support when raising your children here. Our Halaka is specifically for women who married into the Islamic life, but we have a couple of ladies that were raised Muslim in America. We’re all about 30-something and most of us have children of varying ages. Please keep in touch. I’m looking forward to reading what you have to say.

  • Anne

    Hi. I’m a Christian married to a Christian but it’s been so interesting reading your blog. I had a couple friends in HS and college who were Muslim but I can’t think of any current friends who are Muslim. My eyes glaze over a little when you describe the cooking b/c I know I will never attempt to make those foods, but it sounds like an exciting adventure! I work in a preschool setting with kids from diverse backgrounds. Some of their parents are Hispanic, some are Muslim, some are Indian, some African, some African-American, some Caucasian, some Jewish, … We are working to make our classroom more welcoming and comfortable for students and families from all backgrounds. If you ever have any thoughts on this, I would love to hear about it. Things for the wall, ways to contact parents, anything that a midwestern Lutheran may have no idea about when interacting with Muslims.

    Hmm. There was something else I wanted to tell you or ask you but I can’t remember what it was now!

    • Welcome Anne! It’s nice to meet you. Something I usually like to do around the time of Ramadan, is donate a book to the library at my son’s school or classroom that explains Ramadan or something about Islam in general. There are quite a few books on or even Amazon to choose from. I know that just the idea that you introduce the month of Ramadan to the small children is very much appreciated. My son is constantly explaining himself to his friends and I think it would be easier if Ramadan was covered like Kwanzaa, Cinco de Mayo and Chinese New Year so that the children would be more understanding and supportive to their Muslim friends as they get older

      If this is something that fits into the dynamics of your preschool, you might want to ask one of the parents to come in and do a presentation.

      I’m sure there are other things, but please feel free to ask away! I’m always asking questions that I think are incredibly simple but end up with a really good explaination.

      Oh, and not all the recipes are that complicated 😉 I just posted these because they were the ones we were currently cooking. Most of my cooking is soo typically Midwestern but when we do something Egyptian, I’ll be sure to post it!

      Thanks for reading! Salam.

  • Anne

    The book idea is very intriguing. Our preschool is part of the public school system and we don’t actually teach about holidays. However, instead of a book teaching about Ramadan, I would be really interested in finding books for kids aged 3-5 where the artwork shows people doing regular stuff, and maybe someone has her hair covered. So kids just sitting flipping through the books during book time would think, “hey she looks like my mom shopping” or whatever. You know what I mean?

    As a tangent, I would love to have the job of diversifying extras in movies and tv. So when we’re hiring people to walk around in the background there would be some guy with a yarmulke walking by in one scene, and an Asian family walking the dog in another, and a Muslim family in the coffee shop, or whatever. So that it’s not always, this Muslim character is a terrorist and that black guy is a thug, etc. Although, to be honest, since I’ve had kids, I pretty much just watch PBS Kids, so for all I know, the characters are more diverse now anyway. But I doubt it.

    • Oh Anne, I truly understand exactly where you are coming from. I would love to see more Muslim/Arab characters normalized into mainstream TV, Movies and Books. I took a look around and didn’t find anything that meets your specific wishes, but I will keep my eye open. If you are looking for a doll for your classroom, there is a woman on Etsy whose name is UmmLayla who makes beautiful dolls who wear Hijab.

      Okay, she doesn’t have one listed, but I’ll ask her about it.

  • Hope

    Hi there, so so so glad I found this. Iam your normal Midwestern christian girl who has falling for the most tender and adoring man who happens to be Muslin. We have been dating for a five months and he recently told his dad about me and my daughter from a perviouse marriage. lets just say that sense that conversation things have not been the same. He and I are very conflicted and trying to take it day by day and slow but the passion and desire to have one another near and the company makes thinking and trying to be rational and go slow so no one gets hurt very hard. He doesn’t want to disappoint his family, or hurt me or himself and I can see it really affecting him. I deiced to try to do my best to learn more about the Muslim way and see if it really can work. I need help in organizing my racing mind and if this something that logically we can pull off in raising children and respecting both religions and maintain our happiness and love and passion for each other.

    • Welcome Hope! I’m so glad you found us in this corner of the internet. You aren’t alone, and it is possible. 🙂 Please keep reading through and comment when you want to say something. If you want to ask a question, there is a wide wealth of knowledge and experience that is present in the audience here. They are always ready to help. In sisterhood, Kristina

  • Welcome Hope! I’m so glad you found us in this corner of the internet. You aren’t alone, and it is possible. 🙂 Please keep reading through and comment when you want to say something. If you want to ask a question, there is a wide wealth of knowledge and experience that is present in the audience here. They are always ready to help. In sisterhood, Kristina

  • I’m so happy to have found your blog! 🙂 Just 3 months ago I married my wonderful, loving, and devoted Muslim husband. As a Christian from a Christian family, I’ve been trying to learn more about Islam in order to share in my husband’s religious life and experiences. I’m really enjoying reading about your life, and feel like I will learn a lot from you! Thank you for sharing!