Should White Muslims marry each other?

A white man and a light brown-skinned Middle Eastern or South Asian woman sitting on a park bench together; the man's right hand is on the woman's left shoulder. The man is wearing black with a hood (perhaps a hoodie or a Moroccan thobe) while the woman is wearing black or dark grey clothing and a black scarf over her head and a black and white scarf around her neck. There is a low stone wall in front of them and a red brick wall behind them with a metal pipe running vertically down it.
Muslim couple, Amsterdam

Yesterday some of the Muslims I follow on Twitter were discussing a blog article published last September by “Robert of Canada”, who runs a website and Facebook page both titled Islam 4 Europeans, which gave ten reasons why white Muslim converts should marry each other rather than Muslims from non-white ‘ethnic’ backgrounds and that this would be “good for the Ummah”. Most of the respondents disagreed and many indeed said that all the claims were nonsense. In my opinion most of them are irrelevant to most people’s priorities when they are getting married; there is an assumption that every family is affected by the particular “culture wars” he refers to. (A few years ago I took part in a group blogging event about white privilege in the Muslim experience and this made reference to white Muslims, racism and marriage; this can be found here.)

1) SJW [“Social Justice Warrior”] Muslims always say that they are being attacked because Islam predominantly a religion of colour (sic). Well, if there were more white Muslim families, would that not be a viable solution?

Here we see the assumption that everyone who converts to Islam is affected or concerned by online social justice culture. In fact not everyone who converts to Islam even has a Twitter account or knows the writers from Q-News or the 2000s blogging scene; many associate with other Muslims through their mosque or a student Islamic society, for example.

2) It is better to marry another convert on the same level. Being a convert is like a pre-schooler taking graduate level courses. Instead of marrying your teacher, it’s better to marry your classmate

This is not true at all. Unless a couple convert at the same time, it is not usually the best choice for someone who has been Muslim a short time to marry someone whose knowledge and experience of Islam is as limited as theirs. The likely outcome of marriage is, of course, children and we want our children to be the best Muslims we can raise and so if we are new to Islam, it is better that their other parent be someone better grounded than we are. Besides, many convert Muslims have read in detail about Islam for years before they decided to convert and so, while obviously not scholars in the Islamic sense, are fairly literate in the religion. Needless to say, not all born Muslims are anything like scholars and are in no position to teach the religion to anyone except a small child.

In real life, people usually don’t marry their classmates. They marry people who are a few years’ age difference with themselves, usually with the man the older spouse. Whether someone has been Muslim for longer or not, or their whole life, someone who is older is still older. And “new Muslims” do not stay new; when someone has been Muslim for 20 years, they can hardly be called a new Muslim and might well be able to teach a born Muslim 10 or 20 years their junior a few things about Islam.

3) It makes the transition easier for our families. Their son or daughter in law has a better shot at getting along with the family. He or she also has the opportunity to show how Islam teaches us to be good to our spouses and in laws.

Not necessarily; if the non-Muslim family are already hostile and suspicious of any Muslim spouse coming into their family, especially one who had not been their boy- or girlfriend previously, it will not matter a huge amount if they are also White. One of the spouses may wish to protect the other from questioning by his family members or from attempts to sow doubt (e.g. repeatedly asking hostile questions about “why God expects us to pray five times a day if He loves us so much” or about the status of women), to which a born-Muslim spouse would be less receptive. Two isolated converts are hardly stronger than one.

I should add that we live in a prosperous, successful society with a strong sense of its own superiority and middle-class people are particularly invested in the notion of western society and values as superior. To marry someone who has only been Muslim a short time runs the risk that they will discover something about Islam that had not been mentioned in da’wah material they had read which puts them off. (This is one reason why people who are very new to Islam should be encouraged to delay getting married.) Not every convert is at this stage which is why the comparison of all converts to ‘pre-schoolers’ and the recommendation to marry a ‘classmate’ are inappropriate.

4) Black Muslims complain, and rightly so, that we get all these marriage proposals from born Muslims, but they do not. If that is the case, the best solution is to reject those proposals. That would level the playing field.

Not ‘rightly’ at all. It’s just not true. Many of us have been flatly rejected by immigrant Muslim families because they believe we are not good enough for, or ‘compatible’ with, their children. I do also know of Black Muslims in the UK who have been married to Pakistanis and other Asians. They suffer more prejudice from Asian Muslims than White Muslims do, but it is not total rejection and we do not experience perfect acceptance. The American experience here is not universal.

5) The alt right and Neo Nazis would not be able to say that Islam is a threat to the white race.

Who cares? There is no such thing as the “white race” anyway. It’s a figment of racists’ imaginations.

Islam is certainly a threat to any exclusivist vision of race. It preaches brotherhood on the basis of shared belief in Allah Most High and love of the Holy Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. We cannot give the baseless bigotries of fringe groups any consideration when making vital decisions about our own lives.

6) In addition, it is our duty as white Muslims to give dawah to our own group. If anyone can try to change their opinion on Islam, it’s us.

Most of us are quite weak, we are not the sort who can just expect others to become Muslim because we tell them. None of us are Abdul-Qadir al-Jilani or one of the other great Sufis and scholars whose teachings led to thousands becoming Muslim. Most of us want to settle down and start a family because marriage is about completing half one’s deen and taking care of our desires lawfully, not just about the possibility that others might become Muslim as a result.

7) Most marriages to born Muslim families do not end well. We don’t understand their culture and vice versa. Especially for the new convert who is already confused, now they have to assimilate even more while they are trying to learn the Deen?

There is no proof of this claim. In fact, I know of mixed marriages which have lasted decades. Cultural differences are not always as huge as are being made out. Many same-culture marriages inside and outside of Islam break down after a few years nowadays, perhaps because couples do not realise that they have to work on their marriage to make it last after the “honeymoon period” is over.

8 ) Other sub communities, such as the African American and Hispanic Muslims in the US, have been highly successful at accepting and integrating their new Muslims, and they have become part of the fabric of the Muslim community. Why not us?

The simple answer is that integration into an immigrant Muslim community is the easiest option for anyone living in a city in the UK (or perhaps elsewhere) who is in regular contact with Muslims of an immigrant background such as Pakistanis or Somalis. African Americans formed their own communities because Islam played a major role in strengthening the Black community there during the Civil Rights era; their impetus to become Muslim came from within their own society and not as a result of contact with outsiders. African Americans were oppressed; they had been the victims of legally enforced segregation and other forms of overt racism calculated to keep them poor and powerless even after the end of slavery. None of this is true for white western Europeans in recent times. The criticisms of groups like the Nation of Islam are fully justified, but we have even less justification than they do for embracing racial separatism.

9) It would remove us from the white saviour status, given to us by the immigrant Muslim community.

This is also somewhat exaggerated and in any case does not apply in the UK as much as it did in the USA. In any case, some of the white Muslims whose opinions were sought out were in fact scholars, not ordinary Muslims favoured purely because of their colour.

10). Islam protects the culture of the people. When the Habashi Muslims did their sword ceremony during Eid, Umar (ra) wanted them to stop as it was not an Arab custom, but Rasoolullah (pbuh) wanted them to continue. Islam is not a predatory religion, and every Muslim society, whether in China or Pakistan, kept many aspects of their culture. Why not an Italian Islam, a Swedish Islam, a British Islam?

Because there is no Chinese Islam or Pakistani Islam. There is one Islam and the way it is practised anywhere in the world would be easily recognisable to one from almost anywhere else. There are cultural differences such as in diet and architecture, and there are slight variations stemming from the following of different schools of legal thinking, as well as the influence of the native languages, hence the prevalence of words containing the letter Z in much of the Muslim world which would have a ‘th’ sound in a country where that sound existed in the language (English and Arabic both have it, but most of the world’s languages, including most in Europe, do not), but these differences are not great enough to make them a different ‘version’ of Islam.

In countries where large numbers of white people have become Muslim, or indeed where they have been Muslim for many generations (e.g. Bosnia, Albania, Turkey), those Muslims do indeed marry each other and if large numbers of white people in the UK, America or anywhere else in the western world become Muslim at some point in the future, in sha Allah, the same will no doubt happen there. In the present time, white converts are one of a number of small communities of Muslims, some immigrant and some not, who are on the fringes of the general Muslim community which is in most places dominated by those of Pakistani origin and sometimes Bengalis or Arabs. In fact, we are one of the smaller of these groups and spread fairly thinly. We have not tried to separate ourselves — we do not have the numbers to do that, with all it entails — but to fit in and form friendships with the Muslims around us, for the most part successfully. (It has also been suggested that British white Muslims marry Muslims from countries like Albania and Bosnia where most people are also white, but these populations are far from us and culturally as different as British Pakistanis or Somalis who at least speak English. It would also be difficult to settle them here because of obstruction by the immigration ‘service’.)

It’s against the Sunnah for ethnic groups in a mixed Muslim community to separate away from each other or to shut each other out. When the Muhajiroon from Mecca migrated to Madinah, the two Ansar tribes build kinship ties with their new compatriots through marriage. Many of the Ansari men who were married to more than one wife divorced one of them so that they could marry a Muhajir. Throughout Muslim history, Muslims have married people who would not be considered “their race” by modern standards; you find people of Qurashi background in almost every Muslim land and they look like the local population because of intermarriage. In a large and homogeneous Muslim country, of course, most marriages will be between people of the same cultural background and ‘racial’ appearance, but this need not be the case in any context where Muslims are a fractured minority. We should be trying to heal these fractures, not produce new ones. Having a family connection to a Muslim country also helps guarantee our personal safety; if the situation turns against us, which the history of Europe shows that it can do very quickly, we have an escape route to a Muslim country and if it does not, we have the benefits of a connection to another country such as a ready holiday destination and potential business connections.

I’m not against the idea of White western Muslims marrying each other, but if you think that is the best way, you should be living in a rural white area and giving the da’wah rather than giving ill-informed advice to other converts based on false stereotypes and generalisations. There are good reasons why people who convert to Islam, whether they be White or any other ethnic or cultural background, seek to marry someone from a family which is already Muslim. Our Islam is not a gesture of defiance to ‘SJWs’, neo-Nazis or anyone else; it is about believing in Allah Alone and His Messenger, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, and our bond with other Muslims is based on that and not on race, language or accidents of birth.

Image source: Michael Coghlan. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) licence, version 2.0.

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