According to the Pew Research Center “One-in-six US newlyweds (17%) were married to a person of a different race or ethnicity in 2015, a more than fivefold increase from 3% in 1967.”
This dramatic increase has not only opened doors for couples but also created a space for families and communities to heal racial biases and misunderstandings.
Our American Muslim communities and Masjids are racially and culturally divided. Although there is an effort to unify and integrate people from different racial backgrounds, the fact still remains that people tend to feel more comfortable around their own.
Although communities are divided, there continues to be a steady increase in interracial marriages in the Muslim community.
This cultural shift has created a space for races to unify and heal outside of the Masjid space.
In response to this new phenomenon, I decided to capture the stories of several interracial couples and explore their reasoning for choosing a spouse outside of their own race.
Couple 1: White Moroccan Male and African American Woman
“The fact that my wife was black wasn’t something I personally thought about in any serious way. At the very beginning of the courting process, my mindset was such that I was impressed with her as an individual; the race thing was an afterthought,” Hicham Habibullah Hall told AboutIslam.net.
“After my realization that I wanted to marry her, I did think about what it would be like to marry a black woman, but I assume that is a thought that passes through everyone’s mind that gets involved with someone of a different race. However, she was a good practicing Muslim, we had similar interests and really clicked, I thought her family was very welcoming and down to earth, and as far as I could tell she thought the same about me.
“After announcing our marriage, I found out from her that some of her black girlfriends were asking her questions about raising interracial kids and what that would mean for them/me. Honestly speaking, I didn’t think about it until that point. Although I see color like everyone else (a proof for this is when we are describing people we say oh that ‘white’ Moroccan guy with the ‘red’ beard or that ‘black’ girl that was wearing the ‘yellow’ scarf) color was never something that framed how I saw the world. Perhaps this was due to where and how I was raised.
“I know many people may find that hard to believe because they may come from backgrounds in which skin color plays a major defining role in life for them, but that just wasn’t my experience.”
Couple 2: Turkish Man and African American Woman
“I wasn’t looking for marriage, but my husband approached me for marriage. I never considered marrying outside of my race up until that point. I personally don’t see a difference in my husband from a different race. My husband grew up with the same family values as me but he just lived in another country,” Linda Franklin Yildrim told AboutIslam.net.
Couple 3: Caucasian Woman and Pakistani Man
“I don’t think we consciously chose interracial marriage. We were both looking for someone with integrity and good character and Alhamdulillah we found that in each other,” Shannon Landry told Aboutislam.net.
“I think the benefits of our cultural and racial differences are numerous, especially for our children. Our kids understand that people even within their own nuclear family come from vastly different backgrounds and worlds. It will help them to be better world citizens, inshAllah. The biggest challenge I think is just always coming at every situation with two very different approaches due to our background.”
Couple 4: African American Woman and Indian Man
“My biggest concern with marrying into the desi culture was being understood as a black woman and if my husband would understand the struggles I face every day as a Muslim woman of color,” Kendra Jelani told AboutIslam.net.
“A black person marrying into the desi culture is very rare but we truly opened the minds of our families to approach race, culture, and religion from a different perspective. We showed our families how the power of love can overcome our racial differences.”
Love is the universal language of the human being. Our love surpasses our cultures and racial differences. Racial inequality and cultural biases are rampant throughout our community but our relationships serve as an anchor to bond families and communities despite our outward differences.
Interracial marriages provide us with a safe space to ask uncomfortable questions. This type of open and honest dialogue is necessary to shatter barriers and create opportunities to heal our communities.