Mainstream Media Ruined My Reality of Love – A Recovery Story

At the age of 10, my mom told me, “You are what you consume, so be careful what you fill your head with.”

I didn’t take my mom seriously. It’s just a comic book about Archie falling in love with Betty. I know they aren’t Muslim but I am aware of what Islam says about love and marriage.

I scoffed at her advice. It didn’t make sense to me at that age that the continual consumption of mainstream media without any representation of my identity would later affect my love life. Eventually I saw how mainstream media ruined my reality of love.

The Oft Advice

“If two people are alone the third person is shaytan… Keep your chastity till marriage… Stay away from anything that will lead to Zina” The stern warning of my mother and that of my teachers at the weekend Islamic school would often ring in my head every time I got to know someone. In theory, every Muslim should follow these guidelines but in reality that’s not the case.

As I got older and interacted with Muslims from various backgrounds, I realized that what I considered basic understandings when it comes to getting to know someone were not the same understandings among many Muslims. Sometimes even I was a culprit to that sort of laxity.

Mainstream Media Ruined My Reality of Love - A Recovery Story

The Reality

With societal pressures, cultural expectations, and poor connection between us and our religion, we face challenges holding on to our Islamic values. Part of the problem is that we are bombarded with mainstream expectations of love from the media without any representation of who we are as Muslims. Another issue is that our Islamic communities don’t speak our language. 

Why do we as teenagers, and adults pay attention to mainstream media? 

It’s because, generally it highlights environments that we recognize, challenges we face today and in our daily lives. And when it comes to issues of love, mainstream media is all over them!

Mainstream media covers every aspect of love to the minute details, like where to meet a guy, how to make a guy notice you, how to prepare for your first date, when to have your first kiss, what to do when a guy/girl is ignoring you, how to handle a break up, you name it! 

These suggestive ways of dealing with love are in your face, repeatedly! It’s on television, it’s in books, it influences school, and work. I grew up watching Chick Flick with all the romance and dating topics fully covered from non-Muslim perspectives.

Finally I found a show about a woman who promises her Grandmother and God to stay a virgin until she gets married. It’s a hilarious show that tackles the challenges of keeping your virginity today, how she navigates that, all with the twists and drama of a telenovela.

It was a show I could somewhat relate to as a Muslim, “What would X do?” I found myself subconsciously trying to solve my problems from what I had seen in a movie or show. 

From the warnings of our parents or Islamic teachers ringing in our heads to the visual romanticized representation of love in the media playing in our minds, Muslims today are at a crossroad. The truth is that we are still trying to figure out love and healthy relationships. 

In our communities the courting stage is almost a guessing game. “Mariam got engaged”. Surprise! You’ll see these kinds of posts every couple of months on your facebook page, followed by the congratulatory comments. 

What isn’t often discussed is how Mariam met her partner. Sometimes, even Mariam’s close friends could be spared of the courting details. No one in our community wants to talk about how they met.

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